How To Assist A Swimmer In Difficulty

A red box with a yellow rescue tube in it located near the beach.
Some beaches have publicly accessible rescue equipment – but only use if you’re trained.

People can get into trouble at any time in the water for a variety of reasons.

It might be because they’ve got out of their depth, they’ve been overwhelmed by a wave, taken in too much water or had a medical emergency to name a few.

Drowning is often called the ‘quiet killer’ because victims expend their energy fast while they panic trying to stay above the water and ultimately slip under the water – so it’s not always easy to spot.

Some of the signs that someone is in trouble may include panicked cries for help, waving arms or a ‘ladder-climbing’ action to stay a float.

Before you jump in to try and save someone, first think of your own safety – many would-be rescuers become victims themselves because they’ve got themselves out of their limits and are acting on adrenalin rather than ability.

Whether you’re a strong swimmer or not you should call for help from nearby lifeguards, or at unpatrolled beaches call triple zero, immediately.

Only enter the water if you are extremely comfortable in the conditions, and only use public rescue equipment if you’re trained to use it.

How To Assist A Swimmer In Difficulty

  • Bodyboards and eskies can be used as flotation devices to get to the swimmer. Throw them into a rip current to try and float them out to them.
  • Something as simple as an empty drink bottle with the lid on tight can keep a person a float.
  • Are there surfers nearby? Get their attention and have them paddle over.
  • Keep your eyes on the person in the water at all times. If there are more than one of you on the shore, one person should be solely responsible for this.
  • If you’d like the skills to rescue someone, train to become a lifesaver.

This post was written by Andre Slade

Andre is the owner of OceanFit with over 20 years in the swimming education, lifeguarding and coastal safety industry.

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