CORK County Council has launched a new virtual reality educational initiative aimed at raising awareness of the dangers of rip currents in Cork waters ahead of the summer season this year.
The virtual reality experience will be used to educate communities on how to recognise a rip current, keep safe while open water swimming, plan your swim and practice self-care afterward.
Developed in partnership with other local authorities, Water Safety Ireland and the Coast Guard, it is designed to give the public a "felt experience" of being caught in a rip current offshore.
As the season for water activities draws near, the various services are appealing to the public to educate themselves around the dangers of rip currents and how to stay safe while open water swimming.
Roger Sweeney, Water Safety Ireland, emphasised the importance of the initiative, stating: "Rip currents are one of the most common causes of aquatic accidents at our coastline. Bathers regularly underestimate the risk of being caught in a rip current and overestimate their ability to swim safely back to shore.
"This innovative educational experience will help to improve water safety behaviours in young people and reduce water-related accidents, injuries, and deaths,” he added.
John Draper, divisional controller at Valentia Coast Guard, added: “The Irish Coast Guard often respond to incidents involving swimmers caught in rip currents where they find themselves unable to swim safely ashore. Sadly, the outcome from some of these incidents can be fatal. This educational video is another commendable educational tool in the pursuit of enhanced water safety awareness for the public.”
Mr Draper said people should swim in areas where there is a lifeguard presence. “It is always recommended to swim in areas where there is a lifeguard presence and bathers should take notice where there are notices regarding rip tides or strong currents.
Welcoming the initiative, Mayor of the County of Cork, Cllr Danny Collins, said: "We would appeal to all to choose a lifeguarded beach if you are going for a swim this summer. Warm air temperature does not mean that the water is warm, it is still too cold for extended swims and doing so places you at risk of hypothermia. Let's all continue to work together to keep as safe as possible. Above all please supervise children around water and be safe."
The initiative is part of Cork County Council's ongoing efforts to promote water safety. The virtual reality educational experience will visit educational events, schools, swimming pools and beaches over the coming months.