Keeping people safe on Cork’s beaches

A group of 39 full-time beach lifeguards are busy patrolling Cork beaches this summer, IRENE HALPIN LONG finds out more
Keeping people safe on Cork’s beaches
Lifeguards Eoin O'Broin and Carolyne O'Connor at Claycastle Beach, Youghal, Co Cork. Picture: Brian Lougheeed

SPLASHING and swimming in the sea in Spain and further afield may be cancelled for many families this summer due to restrictions on travel, but it is imperative that everyone remains safety aware while on staycation in Ireland.

That’s the message from Cork County Council’s Beach Lifeguard Team, who are overseeing the safety of the public in the water off the County Cork Coast.

The beach lifeguards’ motto this year is ‘Safe on the Sand and in the Sea’ and lifeguards are promoting a Swim and Go policy this summer to avoid large gatherings of people on Cork’s beaches.

Cork County Council’s Beach Lifeguard Service has 39 full-time beach lifeguards. Beach guard teams will be located in Youghal (Front Strand, Claycastle and Redbarn), Garryvoe, Fountainstown, Inchydoney, Owenahincha, The Warren, Garrylucas, Garretstown, Tragumna and Barleycove Beaches.

Caroline Casey is the Water and Road Safety Development Officer at Cork County Council and manages the Beach guard Service. She said: “This year we are also asking members of the public to adhere to government guidelines relating to travel restrictions, hygiene etiquette and social distancing.

Lifeguards Karen Sheehan and Eoin O'Broin at Claycastle Beach, Youghal, Co Cork. Pic: Brian Lougheeed
Lifeguards Karen Sheehan and Eoin O'Broin at Claycastle Beach, Youghal, Co Cork. Pic: Brian Lougheeed

“We want everyone to pull together this year to stay as safe as possible by following the HSE Guidelines as well as respecting the water.

“When speaking to our teams at the beaches, keep your two metres to ensure everyone is as safe as possible. The beach is a shared space so ensure you keep your distance and adhere to the guidelines.

“The lifeguards are there to help keep you safe and we are asking the public to adopt a ‘Swim & Go’ Policy this year to avoid large crowds gathering on the beaches. Social distancing is everyone’s responsibility.”

According to a report by the World Health Organisation in 2014, drowning is the third leading cause of unintentional injury death worldwide, accounting for 7% of all injury related deaths. Boys are twice as likely to drown than girls and the most vulnerable are children aged one to four.

Thirty children tragically drown every 10 years in Ireland. That’s an average classroom of children. Two main reasons children drown are due to lack of water safety education and lack of proper supervision.

Caroline said: “We are asking all adults to model safe behaviour when around water with their children. Your children will do as you do so please, make and model safe behaviour at all times.”

Cork County Council wishes to remind everyone of the importance of learning the Flag System at the beach;

A red over yellow flag means the lifeguards are on duty. Swim between the red and yellow flags parallel to the shore as this is the area that the lifeguards are patrolling.

A red flag indicates that swimming is not advised.

Black and white chequered flags mark the area for surfing only.

Caroline said: “Speak to your children about the 14 steps to staying safe around water.”

These are:

1. Don’t swim alone

2. Don’t swim just after eating

3. Don’t swim when you are hot and tired

4. Don’t swim in strange places

5. Don’t swim out after anything drifting

6. Don’t stay in the water for too long

7. Don’t swim out to sea

8. Swim parallel and close to the shore

9. Do what the lifeguard tells you.

10. Never use inflatables or air mattresses on the water

11. Pay attention to signs on the beach

12. Don’t be a bully in the water

13. Learn to use equipment before trying it out

14. Learn Basic Life Support.

Cian O’Donovan Lifeguard
Cian O’Donovan Lifeguard

Cian O’ Donovan is a senior beach lifeguard at Barleycove Beach. He trained to become a lifeguard by attending water safety courses run by Irish Water Safety. A keen swimmer and surfer, Cian decided that becoming a lifeguard would be a job that would suit him. He explained the role of the beach lifeguard.

“As lifeguards we interact with members of the public a lot during our day. Lifeguards when on duty will always be found either between the red over yellow flags located on the beach or at the lifeguard station. You can always approach the lifeguards if you have any questions or concerns. At the moment, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we ask that you maintain social distancing when you approach a lifeguard on the beach or at the lifeguard station.”

If you do end up in a precarious situation in the water or you see someone struggling, Cian gives this advice: “In an emergency situation, the best way to attract the attention of the lifeguard if they are not close enough to hear you is to wave your arms above your head with your hands closed into a fist and shout for help clearly and loudly.

“This is the internationally recognised signal that you are in distress and need assistance.”

If a lifeguard is not on duty and someone gets into trouble, call 112.

For further information, visit and

More in this section

Sponsored Content