OVER 30 years since Spain first allowed women to join its Armed Forces, a female soldier has been promoted to General for the first time in the country's history. Patricia Ortega, 56, from Madrid, was due to have...
Alcohol-free beaches? Lifeguards call for safer shores
By thinkSPAIN Team Mon, Jul 8, 2019
LIFEGUARDS on Spanish beaches want to see alcohol banned to keep bathers safe, pointing out the dangers of drinking and then going into the sea.
In the same way as the public is now conscious of the extreme risk of driving after having consumed alcohol, the Spanish Life-Saving Federation (RFESS) says that same awareness needs to be created among sunseekers.
Although children are the most vulnerable to drowning in pools and the sea, statistically, most victims are adults, the RFESS says.
Exactly a third of those who drown are pensioners, according to safety and prevention commission coordinator Jéssica Pino.
“Age-related physical problems, such as reduction in mobility, heart conditions and the greater risk of heart attacks that come with age are among the main risks,” Sra Pino says.
“The middle-aged and the elderly are not conscious that their abilities, response times and mobility are gradually reducing – add to this the lack of a culture of first aid knowledge in Spain, and the risk is higher.”
CPR, mouth-to-mouth and other basic first aid skills are not habitually taught in schools in Spain, and the RFESS wants to see this changing.
“We're always putting all our efforts into preventing accidents in the water involving children, but pensioners also need our help – accidents involving the middle-aged and elderly are completely preventable,” Jéssica Pino argues.
But the main cause of drowning in the 30-45 age group is alcohol, she reveals.
“Chiringuitos [temporary beach kiosks set up for summer] are normally very close by when someone gets into trouble in the sea,” says Sra Pino.
“We need to start setting up '0,0' or '0%' beaches.
“Alcohol on the beach also has another side-effect: children are effectively left unattended when their parents drink, increasing their own risk of drowning.”
Jéssica Pino says 'nobody should go bathing alone' as 'many accidents in the sea could have been prevented if the person were accompanied'.
Where sunseekers have no option but to go to the beach alone, they should opt to go for a paddle as close as possible to the lifeguard's station.
Pino offers some accident prevention advice for sunbathers, including watching out for rip-tides, being careful with lilos and body-boards, not jumping off rocks or cliffs unless you know exactly what is on the sea bed, always obey lifeguards' instructions and warning flags being some of her recommendations.
A green flag means bathing is safe, a yellow one means precaution is necessary and only strong swimmers should go beyond the very shallowest waters, and a red flag means entering the sea is banned – often on pain of a fine of up to €1,500.
Lifeguards are not obliged to enter the sea if someone gets into trouble after ignoring a red flag, but in practice, their human instinct takes over and they usually do, meaning they are putting their own lives in danger.
If hazardous waves and the threat of hefty fines are not enough to deter people from bathing when the red flag is flying, sunseekers should be aware that these are also hoisted when there are large quantities of jellyfish – or even raw sewage – in the water, factors that ought to put anyone off disobeying signals.
Jéssica Pino says nobody but extra-strong professional-standard swimmers should enter the sea unless lifeguards are on duty – 90% of people who get into trouble in the water do so off beaches with no first aider on duty, or before or after their shifts.
Even though beaches are busiest at these times, it is not recommended to enter the sea until at least 10.30 or 11.30 in the morning, when lifeguards set up their posts, and to stay out of the sea after around 19.00 or 20.00 when they go off duty.
The Red Cross has started an awareness campaign along all Spain's coasts this summer, which will include free first aid workshops that cover CPR, mouth-to-mouth, the recovery position, airway-breathing-circulation drills, and all other techniques that could save a life.
Also during the campaigns, advice on avoiding accidents will be given, and a rescue simulation carried out with instructions for those who attend on what to do if they witness an emergency.
Life-saving courses based at swimming pools and on beaches normally teach those in attendance how to rescue someone if they opt to jump in to assist, but the instruction stresses strongly that doing so should always be a last resort.
As an example, if a bather sees someone in trouble in the sea, they should avoid going in after them even if they are a highly-skilled swimmer, and instead attract the attention of the nearest lifeguard.
The photograph shows a rescue simulation demonstration with a woman acting as volunteer on a beach in Cartagena, Murcia, and is taken by Cartagena town council which organised the campaign.
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