Browne’s Beach was transformed into a classroom today as 158 people turned up for swimming lessons when Operation S.O.S. (Save Our Selves) got under way.
And, the elderly are among those taking part in the eight-week programme hosted by the National Conservation Commission (NCC), to learn how to swim; the do’s and don’ts of water safety; understanding currents; how to interpret flags and beach signage, and wind and wave patterns.
There are four people in the 70 to 80 age range registered for the programme, 12 persons aged 60 to 70; and 16 in the 50 to 60 age group.
Speaking during his address to those taking part in the three-year-old programme, Deputy General Manager of the NCC, Michael Thompson, said he was pleased with the turn out.
"This is the second largest group we have had in the three years of the Operation," he added, noting the programme was conducted under the training wing of the Lifeguard Service of the NCC, and under the direction of Head of the Department for the Lifeguard Service and Lifeguard Instructor, Dave Bascombe.
Mr. Thompson said the participants also showed that people of all ages were learning to swim which was a positive sign as they may be able to save a life at some point.
"Even if they themselves get into difficulty, they would at least know the basics of water safety and life saving techniques," he said. He added that the knowledge
gained from the classes would also allow participants to go to the beach more often than before and participate in recreational activities.
Mr. Bascombe said one of the main aims of the programme was to empower Barbadians to save themselves in and around the aquatic environment.
He explained there were two classes conducted every Wednesday and Friday from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m., and from 4:00 until 5:00 p.m. This, he said, was to avoid participants being exposed to the harmful rays of the sun.
"That is all part of the safety in and around the aquatic environment," he advised. Among the first tips participants received was that they should drink water before and after coming from the sea to keep their bodies hydrated. They were also advised to wear sun block to protect their skin from the sun.
The lifeguard Instructor explained the programme was usually targeted at children from age 10, as it was from that age that they usually took the most risks. "Under that age parents tend to keep their children close to [them], but when they get to secondary school they go and explore. Some come to the beach unknown to [their] parents and they get into problems," he noted.
He added that the programme was also scheduled for the summer months as it afforded lifeguards more time to work with school children without competing with study times when students are preparing for examinations.
Operation S.O.S. is conducted by all certified lifeguard instructors.