Dying to help: would-be rescuers urged to consider safety first

Take time to assess the risks and your own level of water competency, and only enter the water if you have some form of flotation with you, urges Drowning Prevention Auckland, concerned at further loss of life as a result of rescue attempts.

Only two days in to 2018 and already a family has lost a loved one as a result of an attempted rescue, a loss that comes with a massive social cost to whanau and community, says Drowning Prevention Auckland Chief Executive Davin Bray.

From 1980 to 2016, 93 people drowned in New Zealand while attempting to rescue others, 51 of those at beaches. In most cases the original victim(s) survived and the would-be rescuer, often a family member, drowned.

“Most of these people would still be alive if they entered the water with some form of flotation, you don’t see lifeguards attempting a rescue without equipment,” says Bray.

Providing flotation to a person interrupts the drowning process buying valuable time to either plan how to get the person back to shore, or wait until rescue services arrive, he says.

If purpose designed rescue equipment such as a life-ring is not available, people could use improvised flotation aids such as a boogie board, surfboard, rugby ball, chilly-bin lid, or even an empty 2-3L juice or milk container.

Personal safety first is a critical element of a model of bystander rescue called the ‘4Rs of Aquatic Rescue’ – Recognise, Respond, Rescue and Revive.

Recognising that Kiwis will continue to instinctively attempt to rescue others despite international advice that generally recommends not entering the water, Drowning Prevention Auckland would like to see the 4Rs incorporated into first aid and other public safety education, training for rescue services personnel, and media coverage.

“We have good education around what to do in an earthquake, but when it comes to dealing with someone drowning, for water loving nation we are sadly lacking,” says Bray.

For further information and interviews:

Davin Bray

Chief Executive
Drowning Prevention Auckland
E: davin.bray@dpanz.org.nz