More lifesavers to guard swimmers

2015-10-06 06:00
Extra lifeguards will be deployed to Strandfontein Beach along with several other beaches this summer holiday. 

Samantha Lee

Extra lifeguards will be deployed to Strandfontein Beach along with several other beaches this summer holiday. PHOTO: Samantha Lee

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Three Mitchell’s Plain beaches will receive more support ahead of summer.

Starting later this month, Mnandi, Strandfontein and Blue Waters beaches will get extra lifeguards and beach monitors to ensure the safety of all beachgoers.

These beaches, along with Clifton, Camps Bay, Fish Hoek, Muizenberg, Monwabisi, Kogel Bay, Strand and Macassar beaches, have been identified as hotspots heading into the holiday period.

Belinda Walker, mayoral committee member for community services and special projects, says: “An extensive assessment of the City’s entire coastline has been conducted to determine the risks of each beach. The three beaches in question – Strandfontein, Mnandi and Blue Waters – are certainly not the most dangerous beaches in the city, but they do pose their own risks.”

The City has employed 12 lifeguards permanently. More than 100 trained and accredited lifeguards are in the process of being employed on a seasonal contract basis.

These lifeguards will be deployed to the various beaches from 08:00 to 16:30 daily.

“The City’s permanent lifeguards will fulfil many duties, but one of their primary roles will be the coordination of lifesaving along our coastline. They will spend much of their time travelling between beaches to ensure that standards are being maintained and that beachgoers are safe,” says Walker.

Two permanent lifeguards will be deployed to the Mitchell’s Plain area of the coast. Each of the three local beaches will have four lifeguards on duty daily.

“If there is a need or an emergency, though, at least another four will be readily available from the adjacent beaches. Our lifeguards work with the NSRI to ensure the safety of beachgoers,” Walker says.

In addition to the lifeguards, 100 beach monitors will be deployed.

Strandfontein, Mnandi and Blue Waters beaches will each receive four to six monitors.

Some of them already started work last Friday, but most will start in December and some will work until the end of March next year. They will be responsible for helping to prevent irresponsible and dangerous behaviour along the coastline. These monitors will patrol areas of coastline not covered by lifeguard services in order to prevent people from swimming in areas where there are no lifeguards. The presence of these beach monitors is crucial if the City is to effectively prevent drowning incidents.

“The lifeguards were allocated according to many factors, including information emanating from the risk assessment and historical data that includes average visitor numbers and utilisation trends. There have been no specific incidents on these beaches at this time of year,” she says.

Walker adds that residents should also take measures to ensure their families are safe.

“I am confident that the team members employed to ensure the safety of beachgoers are competent and well qualified. However, we want to emphasise that beach safety does not begin and end with lifeguards. It is a shared responsibility between our beach safety staff and our beachgoers. Many drownings are linked to the consumption of alcohol before swimming or people swimming in dangerous areas not supervised by lifeguards. We urge residents not to allow family members and friends to go into the water if they have consumed alcohol and to report any intoxicated beachgoers,” she says.

She warns that parents should also supervise their children and not swim where lifeguards are not present.

“The City is committed to safeguarding our beachgoers, hence the decision to have as many beaches manned as possible over the next few months. Unfortunately, we will never be able to have lifeguards on every one of our 72 beaches, so I must reiterate the responsibility that rests with beachgoers,” she says.

Lifeguard training is done by the individual lifesaving clubs. Walker says: “Lifesaving clubs around the city are instrumental in the growth, development and sustainability of lifesaving. Now that this is a career within the City, I encourage interested people to make contact with their local lifesaving clubs. Depending on one’s swimming ability, there may still be time to become accredited this season.”

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