Water strategy will help prevent deaths

The majority of drownings can be prevented by education, awareness, training, intervention and action, says Irish Water Safety Chief Executive John Leech
Water strategy will help prevent deaths
Minister for Rural and Community Development, Mr Michael Ring, T.D. with Irish Water Safety chairman Martin O'Sullivan and lifeguards Aideen Foden and Ross McDonagh at the launch of Irish Water Safety's National Drowning Prevention Strategy.Photograph: David Branigan/Oceansport

IRISH Water Safety’s vision is “Every person a swimmer — every person a lifesaver.” Our mission is: “Through education, training and action, we will foster a culture that encourages safer attitudes and behaviours in all those who live, work and play on or near water in Ireland”.

When we achieve that, we can then reduce the level of both fatal and non-fatal drownings.

The majority of drownings can be prevented by education, awareness, training, intervention and action.

We need water safety in every primary school in this country, all 3,300 of them. Parents need to demand from their teachers the provision of this education which is an essential life skill for our children on our island nation.

For our teachers we provide an online, in-service course for them to learn about water safety so that they can deliver this education to their pupils and give them the life skills required to stay alive and ensure others around them stay safe on or near water.

We should also demand that all our children learn how to swim and have essential water safety skills so that they can fully enjoy and work on our aquatic environments safely.

We need everybody to wear their lifejackets and other personal protective clothing when they go out on or near the water. They can then enjoy the experience knowing that they will return safely that day.

We have a number of Government Departments, agencies, associations, NGO’s, NGBs, Clubs and of course individuals who have being doing great work in the last few years and have made great progress in reducing the level of drowning. In 1983, 235 people drowned in our waters, last year we lost 123, so we have made some progress, however, we can, as a society, reduce this further if we implement the recommendations in this National Drowning Prevention Strategy and this is where we need, you, the readers to play your part.

The Minister for Rural and Community Development, Mr Michael Ring, T.D. and Irish Water Safety launched Ireland’s National Drowning Prevention Strategy at the Grand Canal Quay, Dublin recently. It sets out how Irish Water Safety aims to reduce the number of drownings in Ireland by targeting at-risk groups, particularly children.

Minister Ring supports the plan, saying: “Our waters are an amazing resource yet 133 people on average lose their lives to drowning on them each year. Ireland’s National Drowning Prevention Strategy sets out a clear and achievable vision to halve that number by 2027.”

John Leech, of Irish Water Safety. 
John Leech, of Irish Water Safety. 

We have more than 3,000 km of coastline, over 12,000 lakes and our five longest rivers measure over 1,000 km. There’s no doubt that targeted public information campaigns can have a real and lasting effect on public health. Just look at the positive impact that campaigns on drink driving, smoking and heart disease have had over the years, that means rethinking every aspect of water safety.

Water poses real and often unseen dangers at beaches, rivers lakes and quarries, in our homes and swimming pools, on our farms and in our work places. By shining a national spotlight on them and on all aspects of water safety, we can give these dangers the focus they need and together scale up our efforts to reduce drownings.

This strategy has the potential to significantly reduce drownings in Ireland because it is built upon the hard work, vision and insight of all our members, volunteers and many associated partners. It employs learning from all over the world and from every corner of Ireland to set out a clear action plan that will elevate water safety in Irish culture. That’s something that will benefit this generation and every generation to come.

Ireland’s National Drowning Prevention Strategy sets out a clear vision with real and achievable goals in the areas of education, awareness, training, intervention and action. It maps out how all stakeholders can actively play their part in bringing the number of drownings in Ireland down further.

The Strategy prioritises key drowning prevention issues in all aquatic environments and also begins to address the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) firm recommendation that every nation of the world should develop and implement a National Drowning Prevention Plan.

For Irish Water Safety, it marks a pivotal moment that creates an opportunity to elevate the many and complex causes of drowning so that water safety becomes a more central part of the national conversation.

Making small changes in how we all act in, on or near water, can have a hugely positive impact on everyone.

This document will help the public, other Government Departments, agencies, NGOs, NGBs, associations, clubs and individuals to do just that.

For moreon the document, see www.iws.ie

So, enjoy your aquatic activities and always wear a lifejacket on or near the water and use your influence to further reduce the number of drownings on our island nation.

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