LIFEGUARDS on Spanish beaches want to see alcohol banned to keep bathers safe, after pointing out the dangers of drinking and then going swimming.
Just as motorists are now conscious of the extreme risk of driving after consumed alcohol, the Spanish Life-Saving Federation (RFESS) says that same awareness should be created among sunseekers.
Although children are most vulnerable to drowning in pools and the sea, statistically, most victims are adults, says the RFESS. Exactly one-third of those who drown are pensioners, according to Safety and Prevention Commission Co-ordinator 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,” she stressed.
“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 first-aid knowledge in Spain, and the risk is higher.”
CPR, mouth-to-mouth and other basic first aid skills are not taught in Spanish schools, habitually, and the RFESS wants to see this changed.
“We’re always putting all our efforts into preventing accidents in the water involving children, but pensioners also need our help,” said Jéssica. “Accidents involving the middle-aged and elderly are completely preventable.”
But she revealed that the main cause of drowning in the 30-45 age group was alcohol. “Chiringuitos, which are temporary beach kiosks, set up for summer, are normally very close by when someone gets into trouble in the sea,” she said. “We need to start setting up non-alcohol beaches.
“Alcohol on the beach also has another side-effect because children are, effectively, left unattended when their parents drink, which increases their own risk of drowning.”
And the Safety Co-ordinator believes that no one should go bathing alone. “Many accidents in the sea could have been prevented, had people been accompanied,” she stressed.
Her accident prevention advice for sunbathers includes 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, and always obeying lifeguards’ instructions and warning flags.
A green flag means bathing is safe; a yellow one indicates that precaution is necessary, and strong swimmers only should go beyond the very shallowest waters. The red flag means that entering the sea is banned, often on pain of a fine, 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, human instinct takes over and they usually do, which means they are endangering their own lives.
If hazardous waves and the threat of hefty fines are not enough to deter people from bathing when a red flag is flying, they should be aware that these are also hoisted when there are large quantities of jellyfish, or even raw sewage, in the water.
The Red Cross has begun an awareness campaign along all Spanish coasts this summer, to 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, advice on avoiding accidents will be given, and a rescue simulation carried out with instructions on what to do if people witness an emergency.
Life-saving courses, staged at swimming pools and on beaches, normally teach people how to rescue someone if they opt to jump in to assist. But that should be a last resort, because they should alert a lifeguard.
The photograph shows a simulated rescue demonstration, with a woman acting as volunteer on a beach in Cartagena, Murcia. It was taken by Cartagena Town Council, which organised the campaign.