It’s summer time again; and Barbadians, particularly school children, and tourists alike, are being urged to swim only at beaches with erected lifeguard towers, to observe warning signs and obey the instructions of lifeguards on duty.
This appeal has come from General Manager of the National Conservation Commission (NCC) Keith Neblett, who recently expressed concern over the practice of persons taking lifeguards for granted, in terms of disobeying their directives for swimming.
Speaking about the invisible, but dangerous rip currents which may form overnight, or during the course of the day, he observed: "They are under there (the water) and you do not see them, but when you get into the water you can feel the current pulling you. Lifeguards are very aware of these things, and they erect the relevant signage, but people do not adhere to them."
Mr. Neblett made it clear that there was nothing "glamourous" about being a lifeguard, but rather, it was a strenuous, stressful and dangerous job.
"People come into the sea to have fun and frolic, but when they get into difficulty the lifeguards have to put their lives at risk to save them. ??It can take a lifeguard between 20 to 30 minutes to get a person out of the water who is not drowning, but merely panicking.?? Some tourists have never even seen the sea and yet they take it for granted and treat it like a pool. So, we have to ensure that our lifeguards are fully equipped," he said.
The General Manager also took issue with the practice of persons coming into the sea "while under the influence" and "causing a lot of problems".
With regard to lifeguard towers, the NCC spokesman said a total of 18 were erected at all of the island’s popular beaches, with none placed at those considered to be dangerous.
"The rationale for this is that when you erect a lifeguard tower you are telling the pubic that there is some level of safety in the water. That is why if you go to East Coast or Barclays Park you will not see any lifeguard towers, but you will see one at Bathsheba," he explained.
Mr. Neblett, however, acknowledged the problem where persons sometimes felt that because they "grew up" on dangerous beaches they could handle swimming there.??
Persons are reminded that the presence of a yellow flag on the beach means swimming?? is?? "limited and risky", while a red one signifies "hazardous and no swimming". As conditions improve or deteriorate, the flags are changed accordingly. The absence of a flag indicates that conditions for swimming are relatively good.??