Dangerous when wet

IT is reported that at least one

person dies every day from drowning in Malaysia but many are still not aware of the dangers involved when doing water activities. They also do not know how to keep safe at water recreational spots.

And this is worrying authorities, as the number of drowning cases tends to rise during school and public holidays, weekends and the monsoon season.

‘’The rate of deaths due to drowning nationwide each year has been three to four times that of fire victims since 2018. Most of the drowning victims were school students and normally, the victims were not local residents of the area,” Fire and Rescue Department (JBPM) director-general Datuk Mohammad Hamdan Wahid told reporters recently.

From 2016 to 2018, JBPM recorded up to 15 spots as high-risk drowning areas nationwide, with frequency of death by drowning at more than five victims. Around 39 moderate-risk areas – involving less than five victims – were also identified.

This year the JBPM is monitoring six hot spots identified as high-risk drowning areas nationwide: five river spots in Kedah, Perak and Sabah and one waterfall in Terengganu with 14 deaths recorded due to drowning as of October.

Mohammad Hamdan added that the department is also working with local authorities to identify non-recreational water bodies with high risks such as unused mining pools, drainage ditches and runoff areas.

Often these unsupervised and unsecured areas are enticing as play areas for children and youths. However, these spots can pose potential dangers such as steep drop-offs, entrapment hazards and strong currents, even for those who know how to swim.

JBPM advised parents to talk to their children about the dangers, especially during the monsoon season.

“Don’t let your children go off alone without adult supervision. And report to local authorities of any potential water hazard in your neighbourhood,” said Mohammad Hamdan.

Another measure the JBPM is considering is stopping all water activities during the monsoon season, especially in high-risk areas.

Said Mohammad Hamdan, this measure, which has been adopted in Terengganu – to halt all activities on its resort islands during the monsoon season – has been effective in preventing and reducing drowning and other water accidents.

Ultimately, however, the public needs to be vigilant and take the necessary measures to keep safe in the water, he cautioned.

“Every school holidays, like now, many parents will take their family and children on water outings and to do various water activities. It is important that they keep safe when their children are around and in water.”

Here are some basic water safety steps that you can take when going on a water outing:

1 Supervision is rule

– watch your kids.

According to WHO, one to four year olds are at the most risk to drown in a pool or accidentally fall into water without the proper survival skills.

2 Look for natural warning signs in your surroundings

Use your common sense! Understand the risks at the water spot. Know your and your family’s ability to cope with them.

3 Always swim in recognised and safe swimming locationsDon’t do any water activities in “strange” or “new” waters you are not familiar with. Designated swimming areas are usually cleared of underwater hazards and have lifeguards on duty.

4 Observe the posted signs in the area Signs warn of dangers and give information on the area including the prohibited activities there.

5 Know your family’s swimming ability

Just because you know how to swim doesn’t mean you can’t drown, say experts.

Swimmers’ false sense of security can push them to take risks in the water, like swimming alone. This is also why would-be-rescuers often become drown victims themselves.

6 Check the weather and water conditions

Don’t have any water activities in bad weather and when the tide is rising or receding.

If a storm or rain is forecast, it’s best to make other plans.

7 Wear suitable clothing Use a life jacket and float if required.

8 Don’t get into the water to rescue a drowning victim if you have no water rescuing skills Learn safe ways of rescuing others without putting yourself in danger.

The different strokes

Swimming in an open body of water (like a river or ocean) is different from swimming in a pool. But both have their risks and basic safety measures should be taken:

At a swimming pools and water-theme parks
  • Spot the lifeguardl Designate a Water Watcher
Assign a parent or adult in your group to be in-reach at all times of the children in the pool.
  • Avoid distractions
No phone, no reading, no sleeping, no chatting. Your eyes should only be on the water. Use your phone only if you need to call 999.
  • Look out for pool drains
With its strong suction pressure, pool drains can trap swimmers underwater and cause them to drown.

At waterfalls
  • Observe the posted signs
  • Don’t swim under powerful waterfalls
  • Look out for slippery rocks
  • Get out of the water in heavy rain At rivers
  • Never swim alone
  • Check the water speed
Try this test: Throw a short log into the water, if it’s pulled under or swept quickly downstream, don’t swim!
  • Know the weather upstream
Rain upstream, especially at the headwater, can cause a strong water surge.
  • Check for crocodiles

At beaches
  • Look out for warning flags
  • Avoid any water activities in bad weather
  • Obey the danger sirens and warning announcements
  • Get out of the water if the water suddenly recedes drastically

At lakes and ponds
  • Use a life jacket and float if required
  • Avoid weedy areas

A weed forest can entangle a swimmer’s legs.
  • Check for algae
Algae can cause skin rash, eye irritation, bacterial infection.
  • Scout out the extent of the shallow water, set clear boundaries Lakes are usually very deep.

Source: JBPM, Kidshealth.org
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