An increasing number of people are being saved from drowning on Barbados??? beaches, thanks to the quick action of lifeguards.

This was revealed by General Manager of the National Conservation Commission, Keith Neblett, today during the launch of the 2013 Operation S.O.S. (Save Our Selves) programme at Brownes Beach.

???We had some drownings, but those were related to heart attacks and other ailments occurring in the water rather than the people getting into difficulty because of the currents,??? he said.

The General Manager attributed the reduction in drownings to lifeguards being more vigilant, and to more people learning how to swim and knowing more about water safety. ???Barbados is surrounded by water, and the NCC has a responsibility for the safety of all [persons] who use the beaches,??? he said.

However, while there are fewer drownings at Barbados??? beaches, Mr. Neblett has pointed out that within another year or two, the NCC wanted to develop a corps of lifeguard volunteers in an effort to boost lifeguard numbers.

Noting that there were presently 106 lifeguards including supervisors, he said the NCC hoped that people who were taught to swim under the Operation S.O.S. programme would come out and be trained so they could volunteer their services at the beaches.

Mr. Neblett added that while the complement may be considered as large in number, ideally each beach should be manned by between four and five lifeguards at a time, as opposed to the three and four at present.

To date, over 1,000 people have been taught how to swim under the Operation S.O.S. programme, with an additional 160 enrolled in this year???s course, which got under way today. The programme caters to children and adults from the age of 10, and has seen persons as old as 84 learning to swim.

???The main aim of the Operation S.O.S. programme is to encourage people to feel comfortable and safe while swimming and enjoying the water. It will also make it easier for the lifeguards if the people going into the water can swim,??? he said.

The programme, now in its fifth year, includes lectures on drowning prevention, the do???s and don???ts of water safety, understanding currents, understanding and interpreting flags and beach signage, and the hazards posed by the wind and waves.

On completion, participants should be able to swim or save themselves if necessary, as well as identify and understand some of the threats that may be encountered in the aquatic environment. In addition, participants are expected to leave with a greater understanding and respect for the marine environment gained by physical contact and through information gained from the lectures and discussions on pertinent marine and aquatic topics.

Operation S.O.S. is being conducted at Brownes Beach, Bay Street, St. Michael and Folkestone Beach, Folkestone, St. James, on Wednesdays and Fridays, from 9:30 until 10:30 a.m., and again from 4:00 until 5:00 p.m. The programme concludes on Friday, August 30.

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