The sea has to be respected - so why don’t people learn?
- Credit: Submitted - April 2012
North Norfolk News editor, Andrew Fitchett, wants to know why people won't think before they leap when it comes to water safety - even in the face of recent tragedies.
What does it take to convince someone to change their behaviour?
If our campaign to try and make people water aware is anything to go by, the answer is ‘quite a lot’.
In fact, judging by incidents across our area and other places in recent weeks, we’ve got a huge challenge on our hands.
When we launched the Play it Safe, Be Water Aware campaign, we knew it wouldn’t change things overnight.
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It’s the sort of campaign we may have to run every summer as new generations visit our coast.
We’ve been out talking to people, dishing out posters, and talking about the importance of understanding the risks they are taking when they go for a swim off the coast, or in any body of inland water.
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This, clearly, is not enough to make a difference on its own.
But you would think that hearing about people dying, or nearly dying, might be.
That’s what we’ve seen in the last few weeks, with people returning to swim at Bawsey Pits - just down the road from us near King’s Lynn - just a month after the death of a fit young swimmer there.
Radek Gina was only 20 when he died, perishing in waters known for violent changes in temperature, depending on where you swim.
If his tragic example wasn’t enough, we then heard from his family, who said they felt "physically sick" on returning to Bawsey and seeing people swimming there.
“It’s like it never happened,” were the words of Radek’s aunt.
Another example came round the corner at Burnham Overy.
I had a double take when a story crossed my desk saying that there had been a rescue there on Monday, with a father and son pulled to safety by a rescue boat.
It was only a week before that a near identical story was in front of me, about another swimmer being rescued.
These lucky people must have had the shock of their lives.
So, I ask again - what will it take for people to take this seriously?
I’ve come to the sad conclusion that it’s one of two things - either they have a brush with death, or a close loved one does.
We’re lucky enough to have grown up by the sea or lived here long enough to know its power.
And if you’re here long enough, you hear enough stories about sea rescues to know the water is not to be messed with.
It doesn’t matter what the weather is, or how inviting the water looks, you have to respect it.
Unfortunately, for many visitors, that’s often not been in their upbringing.
And I’ve definitely been guilty of rolling my eyes when I hear about yet another group being rescued from Scolt Head Island.
I have to remember that these people are here with good intentions - to have fun and enjoy a break.
That’s why we have to remind them that they can have all the fun they want, but a little bit of knowledge will make sure that the fun isn’t ruined in the most catastrophic of ways.
Here are some vital tips:
- Whatever you are doing on or in the water, never go alone and look out for each other
- Go to lifeguarded beaches and swim between the red and yellow flags. Before you enter the water, check the conditions. Once in the water take a moment to adjust to the temperature.
- Be careful of edges, be aware of tides and do not drink alcohol.
- If taking part in water sports, wear a life jacket or buoyancy aid, carry a mobile phone in a waterproof pouch to call for help and make sure you have someone on the shore to provide you with safety cover. If you are paddleboarding, use a leash.
- If you get into trouble, float on your back to save energy. Keep calm and once you're able call for help.
- If you see someone else in trouble call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard. Throw the person in trouble a line or something that floats if possible. Do not enter the water yourself.
Our Play it Safe, Be Water Aware campaign
This newspaper has launched the Play It Safe campaign to ensure everyone visiting Norfolk's waters this year stays safe and remembers their day out for all the right reasons - here's how you can get involved.
Businesses in Sheringham have already shown their support for the campaign by putting our free posters on their windows, doors and walls.
The posters can be ordered for free, with only a small charge for postage and packaging, from this website: https://www.norfolkstore.co.uk/store/Play-it-Safe-Water-Safety-Poster-Just-pay-P&P-p372304298