Play it safe in the water
Albury is spoiled for choice when it comes to places to cool off, with Lake Hume, the Murray River and local swimming pools among the most popular places to escape the summer heat.
People of all ages and ability drown in inland waterways. Royal Life Saving statistics indicate that between 1 July 2002 to 30 June 2016 there were 1,045 drowning deaths in Australian rivers, creeks and streams.
The NSW Royal Life Saving Respect the River initiative aims to increase awareness of the dangers of the inland waters and identifies precautions you can take if you want to swim in an inland waterway
For many years, experienced local paddler Tony Zerbst has featured in AlburyCity’s river safety campaign. Tony has paddled the Murray for more than 40 years and is acutely aware of its dangers.
He says that, while a ‘river float’ from Waterworks or Mungabareena Reserve to Noreuil Park is one of the most enjoyable ways to enjoy a summer’s day, you do need to be aware of a few basic rules to make sure that you stay safe in the water:
- Always wear a lifejacket
- Take a mobile phone in a waterproof container
- Make sure that someone knows your plans
- Before you set off, familiarise yourself with the course and the time it will take.
“If you’re just floating, and not paddling, keep in mind that the journey can take about six hours. I’ve seen so many people not realise and arrive at Noreuil Park exhausted, cold, thirsty and sunburned.”
Here are some other safety tips to be aware of when swimming in the river:
- Never swim in fast-flowing water. Check the speed first by throwing in a twig to see how fast it travels.
- If you are caught in a current, float on your back and travel downstream, feet first, to protect your head from impact with any objects.
- Beware of submerged objects. Trees, branches, rocks and discarded waste can be dangerous.
- Be careful not to stand near the edge of overhanging river banks, which can crumble away.Remember that conditions can change rapidly as a result of heavy rainfall or the release of water from Lake Hume.
Make sure that your kids can swim
Children can take formal swimming instruction from the age of four years. Water safety skills make up part of the tuition. Swimming programs are available for younger children and babies, but the emphasis is on building confidence and encouraging the child to enjoy water, rather than teaching them to swim.
Children under five years of age may not be able to use their swimming skills in an emergency, so never rely on this to keep them safe.