What To Do In A Crisis
Sometimes people can end up in dangerous water situations, completely unaware. From our rivers to our roads and everything in between water safety emergencies can crop up just about anywhere. For some, by the time they realise the gravity of the circumstances it can be too late. However, it is important not to panic. In many situations there are actions you can take to remove the risks. Check out our helpful guides to ensure the safety of you and those around you.
Flood Risks and How To Stay Safe
Water Safety Ireland has warned about the increased risk to the public in flood conditions which can be compounded by high winds, heavy rain and a new or full moon (bringing large tides); deep areas of low pressure tracking over the Atlantic further increase the level of floods especially in our estuaries exposed to onshore winds. Further periods of heavy rain increase flooding levels and it is then that you need to know how to stay safe.
Flood Risks And How To Stay Safe
Flood conditions expose the public to hazards they need to be aware of. Fast moving water can exert pressure of up to four times it’s speed against the legs of someone attempting to cross it.
Because water displaces bodyweight, the deeper a person becomes immersed the less the person weighs so the more difficult it is to remain upright. Never put ones feet down if swept away in floodwater, because foot and body entrapments and pinning are the leading cause of accidental death in rivers.
Motorists need to be particularly vigilant to avoid flooded areas on roads but particularly near rivers, with poor light and short days it is not possible to determine the depth of floods easily. Swift water will carry cars and other vehicles away and there have been very tragic drownings in the past as a result of such accidents.
Children are naturally curious about water, therefore parents should caution them that floodwater hides the true depth and that manhole covers may be open and that small streams when swollen are very fast and deeper than normal.
What should I do when I hear a Flood Warning?
• Listen to the national and local radio for met eireann updates and aa road watch updates
• Check on neighbours particularly if they are elderly, infirmed or families with young children
• Move your vehicles to higher ground
• Move animal stock to higher ground
• Check your small craft to ensure they are well secured or moored
• Make sure you have warm clothes, food, drink, a torch and radio.
• Block doorways and airbricks with sandbags or plastic bags filled with earth. Floodgate products will work effectively also.
• Switch off gas and electricity supplies if flooding is imminent.
• Check the time of high water in the newspaper or here
• Avoid flood waters.
• Carry a mobile phone at all times in case you need to call for help – call 112 or 999 in emergency
• Wear suitable protective clothing & a lifejacket in on or around water
• Avoid fast flowing water.
• Never put your feet down if swept away by fast flowing waters
• Flooding on roads will be deeper at dips and around bridges.
• Stay away from sea and flood defences.
• When walking or driving, be aware of manhole covers and gratings that may have been moved due to the heavy flow of water.
• Take care when using electric appliances in damp or flood conditions.
• Remember that during the hours of darkness the dangers are multiplied.
After the flood
• Avoid eating food that has been in contact with flood water.
• Run water for a few minutes and wash your taps.
• Check gas and electricity supply.
• Leave wet electrical equipment alone to dry and have it checked prior to use.
• Ventilate your property well.
• Check out www.Flooding.Ie for more detail on general flooding
• Check on elderly neighbours.
How To Use A Ringbuoy
• Stand back from the edge and establish voice contact with the person, shouting ‘Kick your legs!’
• Look for the nearest ringbuoy (Yellow Box).
• Stand on the end of the rope or hold it in your hand.
• Holding the ringbuoy, swing back, then release forward with an under-arm throw, shouting: ‘Ringbuoy! Ringbuoy! Ringbuoy!’
• Aim to land the ringbuoy beyond the person, so that the ringbuoy can be pulled into their grasp.
• Instruct the person to hold the ringbuoy. Slowly pull them to land, reassuring them.
• Get others to help you.
Specification for Ringbuoy and Guidelines for its erection
The ringbuoy is used as a quoit and line and is not designed to support a person with positive buoyancy similar to a SOLAS Approved Life Belt, which is 36″ diameter.
Weight of ringbuoy: 1kg Polyurethane foam filled
Positive Buoyancy of a Ringbuoy: a minimum of 50 Newton’s
18″ is the maximum that the Ring Buoy should achieve in diameter.
25 meters of rope for most cases however up to a maximum of 30 meters at bridges in tidal estuaries. (Length of rope should be Air Draft of bridge at MLWS plus ten Meters where possible)
MLWS: Mean Low Water Spring. The mean low water spring is the lowest level to which spring tides retreat on the average over a period of time.
.5 tonne breaking strain, 8 plaid, 6mm coloured red and yellow polypropylene. This line should be attached to the ringbuoy by means of a bowline knot.
A galvanised box steel crucifix or galvanised pole is recommended for their erection.
Dimensions 5mm box steel – galvanised with a 25mm by 5mm base plate used for securing to stone or concrete with 4 bolts. Overall length 180mm, transverse length 41mm – 20mm from the top.
3″ galvanised steel pipe with a plastic blank on the top to waterproof it internally. To improve their visibility PVC pole covers should be used in the red and yellow colours.
Alternatively the boxes can be bolted directlyto walls, the bottom of the box should be approximately 1300mm from the ground.
The Ringbuoy should be erected in the yellow box with the sticker ” A stolen ringbuoy – a stolen life “on the front of the box. This sticker has proved most successful at reducing the degree of vandalism and interference to the ringbuoys.
The rope should always be coiled in a clockwise direction free of kinks and knots, then stowed at the bottom of the Box.
The Boxes should be erected approximately 100 Meters apart or within sight of the next (i.e. avoid blind erection spots – people should always be able to see one in an urban area at any stage along the river/canal/pond/lake edge)
The Ringbuoy should be positioned above the Mean High Water Spring line if it is a tidal waterway or above the Winter Flood line on a river or lake. This is to ensure safe access to it at all times. It should be located in a conspicuous position in close proximity to the waterway so as to allow easy access to it.
To effect a rescue with a ringbuoy the rescuer should aim the ringbuoy to fall a short distance beyond the casualty so that it can be retrieved towards them. When the casualty has a firm grip they are retrieved slowly to the bank or edge. It is essential that the rescuer reassures and instructs the casualty throughout the rescue to ensure their cooperation and confidence.
For people not used to cold water (temperature under 15 °C), sudden immersion is associated with two problems, either of which may result in death from drowning.
On initial immersion, the shock of the cold water coming in contact with the skin (“Cold Shock”) can result in incapacitation and drowning in the first 2-3 minutes. For those who survive this and are unable to get out of the water quickly, progressive body cooling leading to hypothermia will follow in time. The rate of onset will depend on water temperature and the protective measures you have taken to reduce body cooling.
Hypothermia - What To Do
The term used to describe the initial response of a victim, unused to cold water after sudden immersion.
Signs and Symptoms:
Initial deep gasping
Uncontrollable rapid breathing, with possible dizziness and pins and needles
A large increase in both heart rate and blood pressure
Inhalation of Shock
Stroke or heart attack
Use recognized ‘man overboard’ prevention equipment
Wear approved lifejackets
Wear clothing with good insulating and waterproofing properties
Wear Immersion Suits (dry/wet)
Hold on to some support and do not attempt to swim until symptoms have subsided (approx.2-3 min)
Exit the water as soon as possible
Monitor airway, breathing and circulation
Prevent further loss of heat
Protect from wind
Get medical help
Following immersion, first, the skin and limbs cool rapidly; then the heart, brain, and other deeper parts of the body cool. Hypothermia occurs when deep body temperature drops by at least 2°C. Body build, body fat, fitness level and types of clothing worn, all affect its rate of onset.
Signs and Symptoms:
Early dulling of sensation in hands and impaired muscle function
Violent shivering with blueness around the lips
Armpits very cold
Lethargy and disorientation
Slow and laboured breathing
Pulse weakens but difficult to feel in any case because of cold
Impaired sensation & muscle coordination may impair some early vital lifesaving actions involving hands
Loss of consciousness
Note: Do not assume a person is dead; they may only be in hibernation.
Wear approved lifejackets
Wear Immersion Suits over warm clothing
Learn cold-water survival techniques (stay still with arms by sides and legs together – “HELP” position)
Get out of water as soon as possible (life raft; upturned hull, or any other refuge in air)
Prevent further heat loss (enclose in plastic bag)
Monitor airway, breathing and circulation
Move victim to shelter and lie flat
Insulate body and specially the head
Remove wet clothing if dry replacements are available.
Enclose body – except face – in large polythene bag or other waterproof material
Give warm sweet drinks if conscious, DO NOT give alcohol
Avoid rubbing the victims body
a) It takes only 15 to 20 minutes in cold water before the temperature of the heart, brain and internal organs begin to drop but skin and muscle temperatures cool far quicker, which may impair some essential early lifesaving actions.
b) Children cool much faster than adults because they are smaller and have less fat. Boys usually cool faster than girls.
c) Swimming may give a feeling of warmth but it accelerates muscle cooling. The body may produce more heat when swimming but it is also more quickly lost from the arm and leg muscles. Once these muscles cool, swimming becomes more difficult or impossible.
d) Normal clothes will not produce much insulation against cold water, but they will slow down the rate of loss of vital body heat.
e) Wearing approved Lifeguards, Immersion Suits and properly fitting Wet suits will decrease the likelihood of hypothermia for all water sports enthusiasts.
CONVERSATION OF HEAT IN WATER
Retention of heat in water:
1) Avoid swimming if possible; floating or treading water increase the chances of survival. Remain still by using trapped air in clothes as a buoyancy aid. Better still wear a lifejacket.
2) Clothes will slow down the rate of loss of vital body heat.
3) H.E.L.P (Heat, Escape, Lessening, Position) – This position (legs together elbows to sides), may be adopted if wearing loss in calm water.
4) Immersion Suits: Wet suits provide extra buoyancy and reduce heat loss for considerable time, but dry suits are better for long-term survival.
5) Use of floating objects (e.g. Swamped or capsized boats) to get as much of the body as possible out of the water, even if the air feels colder you will always cool faster in water.
Escaping a submerged vehicle
Rescue in Car Accidents in the Aquatic Environment
Every year, thousands of vehicles worldwide end up in the water, by accident or on purpose. About 15% of them are fatal. A studies over many years, in which different kinds of passenger vehicles were driven in several ways into the water, led to the following observations and to the establishment of realistic lifesaving techniques through immediate action.
Escaping a submerged vehicle
The actual duration of the floating phase is different for every case/car, in function of:
- The kind of car (open/closed, large/small, minivan etc.)
- The way of landing in the water (on 4 wheels, on the roof, sideways etc)
- The kind of damage (with a crushed rooftop, broken windows, the condition of the body work)
- The kind and localisation of the load
- The localisation of the motor
Depending on the above-mentioned facts, the vehicle will normally sink heavy end first i.e. frontward, but sometimes backwards while the remaining air that keeps it floating escapes.
Positioning on the bottom
In decreasing order of quantity, the vehicles are recovered on the wheels, on the roof, on the side or nose down stuck in the mud.
During the floating phase, there is an air bubble that decreases as the vehicle sinks to the bottom. While the escape is prepared there is still air present, breathing remains possible.
In modern cars, equipped with a flatter rooftop they are recovered on their 4 wheels in more than 2.5m depth of water, an air bubble or only approx. 2 cm just under the rooftop may be detected.
In cases where the rooftop was covered with maximum 50 cm water, slightly more air was detected (up to 5cm). This remaining air is very difficult to detect, due to the sagging of the rooftop’s wet soft furnishing.
Only with the knowledge of certain techniques, can this remaining air bubble be used for breathing. With vehicles that were detected in different positioning, more of less no air remaines inside.
Electrically-operated windows and doors
They will sooner or later no longer function, but this will not necessarily immediately follow the immersion, considering that the concerned equipment is well protected against water. Opening the doors or breaking the windows with a “rescue or glass hammer” or with the bottom of a fire extinguisher or heavy implement is difficult but still possible.
IMMEDIATE ACTIONS TO TAKE
- Stay Safe – Stay Calm
- The lifesaving escape has to be planned and prepared, while breathing in the avaiable air bubble
- Avoid panic by remaining calm and giving clear instructions
- Remove the safety belts and of the children in the baby seats
- Arrange the small children to move with those who will leave the vehicle first
Abandon the vehicle AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE. Survival chances decrease as the car sinks deeper
- Release your seatbelts and open the windows – be aware that the seatbelts might not retract; take care not to get tangled in them
- In case this doesn’t work, break the windows with a ” glass or rescue hammer”, the UNDERSIDE of the fire extinguisher, headrest or any available heavy implement. As long as the vehicle floats, this will succeed.
- If your head restraints are removable, pull them out when you release your seatbelt to enable easy passage for rear passengers – you can also use the head restraints to smash the side windows if necessary
- Using the fire extinguisher or heavy implement is very difficult under water. The average person will only break the windscreen with a glass hammer because it is made out of layers of glass. Beware of the rear windows, as they can sometimes only be opened half way (child protection), which makes escaping through them very difficult, if not impossible. In case escape through the side windows or windscreen does NOT succeed, the doors are also an escape possibility. Open the lock. Push very powerfully with shoulder and arm against the door till it opens. Because of the counter pressure of the water this will not be easy. Even with all air gone from the car, a lot of power is needed to succeed in this. In case the vehicle is still floating, the water will now strongly flow inside, thus shortening the floating time drastically.
- The strongest swimmers abandon the car first. They should hold on to the roof edge with both hands. They should exit backwards, head first, face up; they pull themselves out, holding on to the car
- Subsequently the other passengers are pulled out of the vehicle, if they are unable to exit themdelves in the same way
- In anticipation of getting everybody out of the car, the vulnerable can be put on the roof of the car if it is still floating or has sunk in shallow water
- Then lead the vulnerable one by one to the shore.
- It may seem obvious – but don’t try to save anything except lives. Computers, phones, purses, jewellery, etc. can be replaced – you can’t!
When it is only possible to leave the vehicle under water (sinking or sunk), it is essential to keep contact with the car if remaining passengers in the car are to be rescued. Breathing in air at the surface and then diving back is only possible in shallow water.
What to do when I come upon a casualty in the water
Always consider your own personal safety, never dive in without completing a risk assessment. If possible grab a ringbuoy
In as much as you can you assess the following:
- The degree of urgency
- The numbers in danger
- The observer’s own abilities
- The condition of the subject(s)
- The aids or assistance available
- The weather and water conditions e.g. river current or rip currents
- The distance of the subject(s) from shore
WHAT ACTIONS CAN WITNESSES TAKE?
Call 112 or 999 and ask for Marine Rescue, brief them on the situation, i.e. location, number of casualties, colour of car.
Immediate help can only be given by going into the water.
- Because a floating vehicle behaves similar to a boat, one can try to pull it closer or mainatin its position to the shore with some kind of rope or a human chain, or use a ringbuoy and rope if available
- In case the passengers do not open either door or window, a side window has to be broken with any available heavy implement e.g. a rock or a door has to be opened by supporting both feet on the framework and pulling the door handle very hard
- Further actions depend on the physical condition and the aquatic experience of the lifesavers
Following the above-mentioned directives gives passengers of vehicles that get into the water real survival chances.
Seek assistance – Shout for HELPInstruct another to dial 999 or 112 and ask for Marine RescueUse your voice to calm the casualties and give clear, confident instructions and encouragement to assist them to a place of safety. There may be no rescue equipment available, so if possible improvise.REACH
If this fails then use a coat, branch of a tree, brush handle or other available rescue aid to complete a reaching rescue.THROW
When available always use Public Rescue Equipment i.e. a ringbuoy,
If the location allows conduct a wading rescue with care and only if you are a trained lifesaver.A swimming rescue should only be attempted if you are an in-date trained lifesaver.
Most individuals with epilepsy will be under the care of a medical practitioner who may have provided advice concerning the safety of aquatic activity. The guidance offered in this statement does not presume to override advice given by a medical practitioner.
- There is some debate as to how long an individual should be free from seizures before resuming water activities.Guidance is offered by the Medical Commission of the International Lifesaving Federation.
Guidelines on Epilepsy
• Persons with epilepsy are medically eligible for all water safety and lifeguarding awards, activities and competition provided they have been free of seizures for two years. This is irrespective of whether medications are being taken or not.
• When a lifeguard, acting on medical advice, stopstaking anti-convulsant medications, the lifeguardshould not participate in aquatic activities for a periodof three months. Still water activities should be eithersupervised or held in the company of others who areaware of the circumstances.
In the case of lifeguards, however, there are legal implications. Beach and pool operators may require the attending doctor to state the lifeguard is fit and safe to perform his/her duties. This is the responsibility of the beach/pool operator.
2. Where a qualified lifeguard has a recurrence of seizures, individual circumstances dictate what further action is required.
• Where the seizure is the result of omitted or forgotten medication, inadequate sleep or physical exhaustion, a further six months must elapse without seizure activity before water activities can be resumed.
• Where the seizure has occurred following withdrawal of medication on medical advice a minimum period of one month must elapse before water activities can be resumed.
• Where the seizure is the result of alcohol abuse, head injury or brain surgery, water activities may not be resumed for a further two years.
3. Where a qualified lifeguard develops epileptic seizures, a two-year period free from seizures will be required before water activities are allowed. Land based activities should be determined by the organisation medical adviser but in general may be allowed after one year free from seizures.
• The official should be fit free fro one year before operating independently. During this year, the official may participate in lifesaving activities but should be accompanied by a colleague who would be able to effect a rescue. If a swimmer requires rescue during a training session the person who is non-epileptic should enter the water to give assistance.
• After one year of being fit free, the official who has epilepsy may operate on the poolside independently. He/she should avoid situations that may trigger a fit, the most common two being flashing lights and cold water.
• If an unsupervised swimmer has a seizure in the water this may result in a fatal outcome.
• Open water swimming is more dangerous than swimming in a pool. The recommendations for open water swimming are therefore more stringent than for swimming pools.
4. For officials with epilepsy the advice is:
5. The Medical Commission advises recreational swimmers with epilepsy:
i. Individuals who have epilepsy should not swim in open water unless they have been free of seizures for at least one year.
ii. They should not swim for at least three months after cessation of medications.
iii. They should not swim alone. Companions should be aware of the potential for seizures and the possible need for rescue. Parents of children who have epilepsy must watch their charges at all times whilst swimming. They should only venture into shallow water on a gentle sloping beach with gentle small waves. Direct contact should be maintained at all times whether in open water or swimming pool.
iv. They must not hyperventilate, this is particularly important prior to swimming and diving.
v. They should not engage in S.C.U.B.A diving.
vi. The advice given to board riders, surf ski and other craft users is similar to that for lifeguards. In addition they are advised to surf with friends who are aware of their condition and are familiar with the principles of surf rescue and resuscitation.
TAKE EXTRA CARE ON THE ROAD
Flooding on public roads can be very dangerous.