Working towards better water safety awareness

Lee (right) showing how water rescue can be carried out even by non-swimmers as he throws a line to a ‘victim’. Assisting him is Ooi.Lee (right) showing how water rescue can be carried out even by non-swimmers as he throws a line to a ‘victim’. Assisting him is Ooi.

A SERIES of stricken cries interrupted a talk that was taking place at a clubhouse and attendees rushed to the poolside to see what the commotion was about.

Apparently, someone was drowning!

It did not take long for two heroes to emerge among the bystanders.

Using a plastic bag filled with pool water as a weight, they threw a line to the victim and pulled him to safety.

In truth, there was no real cause for alarm.

The whole scenario was staged as part of a workshop on water safety and first responder rescue organised by Alliance for Safe Community (Ikatan) together with the Butterworth Life Saving and Aquatic Life Support societies.

All three are non-profit organisations.

Ikatan chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye, who played the role of rescuer, was aided by the programme’s organising chairperson Datuk Ooi Win Juat.

In his speech, Lee said the water safety programme was a first for Ikatan which was formed in January 2019.

“We plan to organise more of these workshops to spread the message on water safety and help equip more people with knowledge on how to react to and prevent drowning,” he said.

Lee pointed out that the high number of fatalities caused by drowning was something that could no longer be ignored.

“In Malaysia, the death rate of drowning in water mishaps is 82%, far greater than that of road accidents or fires.

“Statistics from the Fire and Rescue Department revealed this grim reality in 2018.

“Of the 238 water mishap cases that were reported, 195 were fatal,” he added.

Present at the programme held in Ampang Jaya were members of the Seri Serdang Volunteer Firefighters Association (PBS Seri Serdang) and a team of lifeguards from a theme park in Bandar Sunway, Petaling Jaya.

PBS Seri Serdang member Amir Firdaus Amir Ridzuan said that since 2018, he had intervened in about 10 water mishaps.

These included two cases which he encountered within his first two months as a volunteer firefighter.

“Most of them were preventable, and happened during hiking trips.

“A majority of them involved me pulling the victims out from deep parts of a river or lake they had unknowingly stepped into,” said Amir Firdaus.

Nodding in agreement was senior lifeguard Mohamad Shahrill Azmi Mohd Kardi, who revealed that he had intervened in 14 cases since 2014.

“I do not wait for a swimmer to get into difficulty.

“The moment I feel that he may have a problem, I take action.

“Most of the cases involved small children whose parents were nowhere to be found at the time of the incidents.

“Another involved a couple who inadvertently found themselves in the deep end of a pool as they had not paid attention to where they were drifting,” he said.

Ooi, who also runs a volunteer group that teaches the disabled how to swim, said the tentative plan for now was to form connections between Ikatan and communities via residents associations to spread the message on water safety.

He said the group would also work with local authorities to obtain permission for the use of public swimming pools to conduct these programmes.

“The workshops will be carried out by members and communities residing in high-risk areas including near seas, rivers, waterfalls, lakes and even agricultural irrigation channels and sewerage pipes,” he added.

As these programmes may require funding for venue, equipment and facility fees, Ooi is seeking partnerships with corporations which are keen to demonstrate their corporate social responsibility.

For details on Ikatan’s water safety and first responder rescue programmes, call 019-226 7867 (Elize) or email

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