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Surf lifesavers urge Beachgoers to play it safe

Surf lifesavers urge Beachgoers to play it safe
January 8, 2010

Surf lifesavers are urging beachgoers to play it safe when swimming at the beach this summer, after the busy Christmas and New Year break saw nine coastal drownings across Australia.

From Christmas Eve through to 4th January, surf lifesavers around the country performed more than 180 rescues, 7,680 preventative actions and 690 first aid treatments.

Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA) Coastal Safety Services Manager, Matt Thompson, said swimmers continued to put themselves at high risk by swimming outside the red and yellow flags, stating "we want all beach visitors to have a safe and enjoyable beach experience, but people continue to put themselves at unnecessary risk by choosing to swim outside the red and yellow flags.

"Surf safety starts with the individual and at the end of the day if surf lifesavers can't see you, they can't save you.

"Rip currents continue to be the major hazard on Australian beaches, with up to 89% of rescues carried out by surf lifesavers and lifeguards caused by beachgoers caught in rip currents."

A Newspoll survey* has revealed that 96% of Australians could not identify a rip current and alarmingly, only 15% could correctly explain the most effective way to save themselves if caught in a rip current and therefore prevent themselves from drowning.

Surf Life Saving launched a public safety campaign at the start of summer, to educate Australians about rip currents and how to survive them. The message is simple: 'To escape a rip, swim parallel to the beach.'

At any given time it is estimated that 17,000 rips exist on Australia's 11,748 beaches. With only 4% of Australian beaches patrolled, being able to identify a rip current and how to survive being caught in a rip current is critical to reduce fatalities on Australian beaches.

As Thompson adds, "if swimmers do find themselves in rip currents, it is important to remember not to panic, do not try to swim against the rip and, 'to escape a rip, swim parallel to the beach'.

"We want all beachgoers to swim only at a patrolled beach and if they do find themselves unable to reach the beach to raise their arm for assistance while floating to conserve energy."

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