Jim Watson, BSAC's safety and development manager, takes a look at how, as divers, we can help highlight the benefits of wellbeing provided simply by being near water, but also how we can educate others in respecting the water and staying safe.
Watching the early morning news the other week, two items caught my attention. Not immediately interconnected you might think but I think they are, not only highly linked, but also provide a very clear call to action for us as divers.
The first was the launch of the 2018 ‘Respect the Water’ campaign by the RNLI. Clearly, as divers, we not only know how to float but we also are aware of how cold the water can be?
The second, apparently more obscure but I think even more relevant was a report published by the Canal and Rivers Trust highlighting the benefits of wellbeing provided simply by being near water.
Working and learning about water safety together
Now as divers we all appreciate the attraction of being by, on and especially under the water. What is interesting is the way this report seeks to quantify the benefit and actually puts a figure on the wellbeing worth. More importantly, I think the two are items are interlinked because by attracting people to the waterside you increase the potential for people to end up in the water (which may potentially be to the detriment to wellbeing?).
Both to me are key messages linked with the UK National Drowning Prevention strategy. But what can we, as divers, contribute to this and help ensure the safety of others who venture near the water?
Water safety education
BSAC divers and clubs already play some small part in communicating the benefits of the water environment. By running try dives, being visible at dive sites and occasionally offering presentations to the local community we broaden the interest in the water environment.
Clubs who have embraced and offered the Beachcomber and Beach Snapper courses for young people provide a perfect opportunity not only to keep them entertained but also communicate essential safety messages to these young but enthusiastic minds. In doing so you contribute directly to one of the National Water Safety Forum (NWSF) key objectives of providing water safety education.
Share the experience
It is our intention as divers to enter the water and we prepare accordingly with suitable protective clothing. But the data in the NWSF Drowning Prevention Strategy shows that the majority of those who died in water did not intend to enter the water and were walking, running or riding near water.
We can still share our experiences without the need to expose unprotected people to cold open water. A simple exercise of breathing through a snorkel (or regulator) and immersing the face in iced water can give anyone some very real experience of the effects of cold shock. In fact, it is a valuable exercise for any diver to practice, especially when training for a first open water mask clearing exercise, just immersing the face in the water without a mask and continue to breath through a snorkel (or regulator) before starting the dive can make all the difference for a dive student.
Be prepared and safe near, on and in the water
The survival/self-rescue techniques advocated in the Respect the Water programme have parallels with the RNLI Diver Sea Survival course, unsurprising as both have the RNLI in common. But the advice and practice of being prepared is one that serves divers well and can be translated by divers for the benefit of other water users to help keep them safe near, on and in the water. But I still don’t understand open water swimmers who swim in just a costume…!