Cape Town - With more holidaymakers expected to flock to South Africa's beautiful coastal areas, authorities are taking greater measures to ensure that there's an increase of lifeguards at beaches, and that more awareness is created around beach safety this summer holiday.
With the festive season in full swing, the City of Cape Town has cautioned the public to stay safe this summer, as more than two million people flock to the city’s beaches during the peak summer season each year, and it is increasing the number of lifeguards at beaches.
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The City says that ordinarily more than 270 trained and accredited temporary lifeguards and over 1 500 volunteer lifeguards are on duty, as well as the voluntary services of the various lifesaving clubs affiliated to Lifesaving Western Province.
Added to that, the Recreation and Parks Department has a pool of 100 additional lifeguards for deployment as needed.
The City’s mayoral committee member, Alderman JP Smith says the arrangement was made to compensate for the closure of many municipal swimming pools that will more than likely see an increase in visitor numbers to beaches and tidal pools.
“We still have far too many people who swim outside of the designated bathing areas and who disregard the instructions of lifeguards. Alcohol is the other major factor that bedevils our efforts to ensure public safety,” says Smith.
SEE: Cape water crisis: City reduces swimming pool access for summer
Although there will be more lifeguards at beaches, the City says much of its success will depend on the cooperation of the public.
Lifeguards will be deployed between 10:00 and 18:00 daily to 22 beaches until 31 January 2018. Thereafter, lifeguards will be deployed to beaches only on weekends and public holidays until 31 March 2018.
The beaches that will have lifeguards on duty include, Big Bay, Bikini, Blue Waters, Camps Bay, Clifton, Danger, Fish Hoek, Gordon's Bay, Hout Bay, Kalk Bay, Kogel Bay, Llandudno Beach, Macassar Beach, Melkbosstrand, Milnerton, Mnandi, Monwabisi, Muizenberg, Silwerstroom, Strand, Strandfontein Beach, and Sunrise.
SEE: Water-wise summer: Certain Cape pools to remain open despite water restrictions
The City also reminds beach-goers that alcohol is not permitted at any of its beaches or swimming pools as most injuries and drownings involve people who are under the influence of alcohol.
Smith says the public must use common sense when they are out and about on the roads and at recreational facilities. "Alcohol impairs one’s judgment and leads to reckless and irresponsible behaviour that endangers the affected person as well as others who are wanting to enjoy our beaches. Surely a few hours of good clean fun can be had without it."
"I am hoping that we can have a festive season without the tragedy of drownings," he adds.
Tourism Ambassador Programme in Eastern Cape
Following similar precautions, the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality
(NMBM) launched a Tourism Ambassador Programme that will be an integral part of the City's safety and security at its beaches over the festive season.
The ambassadors will work closely with the Metro Police and the South African Police Services to patrol beaches, identify and report lawlessness and transgression of by-laws.
The ambassadors are young people who have been trained as peace officers as well as on tourism entry-level training. They will also assist tourists and visitors with tourism and safety-related information.
"We are putting all resources available to make sure that Nelson Mandela Bay is a destination of choice during this summer season and beyond. These efforts can only succeed when all the stakeholders involved work together for best results," says Executive Mayor, Athol Trollip.
Coastal Awareness Campaign
The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) is encouraging the public to be environmentally and socially-aware during their beach visits this summer holiday. This means not only ensuring beach safety but also showing respect to fellow beach-goers and the coastal environment, and following the rules and laws at respective beaches.
DEA hosted a beach clean–up and an awareness session in Durban as part of its Coastal Awareness Campaign. It highlights some issues that impact the coastal environment such as vehicle access on the coastal zone, marine pollution, and ensuring compliance and enforcement of legislation relevant to the coastal environment.
Minister Dr Edna Molewa urges everyone to "be responsible as they exercise their right to equitable access to coastal public property."
ALSO SEE: Nurdles clean-up leaves Durban beaches ready for festive season
Meanwhile, following thousands of South Africans coming together to rid KZN beaches of toxic nurdles, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) says that progress with clean-up has left Durban beaches ready for holidaymakers this festive season.
Safety at the beach
Changing weather conditions and vast marine life can be dangerous at beaches.
At most beaches, there is a lifeguard and shark spotter, and even police patrols. However, as a visitor, it is highly recommend that you stay safe by being as aware and responsible as possible.
SEE: ALERT: Seasonal shoals increase shark risk along Cape Town shores
- Make sure you know how to swim before swimming in the sea.
- Swim between the red and yellow flags, as these areas are patrolled by lifeguards.
- Identify an easy-to-find place where you can meet if anyone gets lost or separated.
- Stay hydrated. Watch out for signs of dehydration such as red, dry skin, rapid/weak pulse and rapid, shallow breathing.
- Don’t drink alcohol before you swim as it impairs your judgment.
- Don’t dive into unfamiliar water as there may be rocks or other dangers.
What is a rip current?
A rip current is a strong, narrow surface current of water that flows rapidly away from the shore. These currents form when excess water that has collected along the shore – due to wind and waves – suddenly rushes back into the ocean. Because they are so strong, rip currents can easily drag you into deeper waters and put you at risk.
If you get caught in a rip current:
- Don’t try to swim straight back to the shore against the current as this will exhaust you.
- Try to tread water or turn on your back and float - rip tides get weaker as they go further out.
- Raise one arm in the air and wave for help to alert people on the beach that you are in trouble.
- Swim parallel to the beach, out of the current, and then use waves to help you get back to the beach.
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