x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

A grim reminder of water safety rules

Three people drowned over the weekend in rough waters, a stark reminder of the caution that beachgoers need to exercise as well as how water safety measures could be improved.

The death of three in the waters off Dubai last weekend were a result of a series of errors. Tragically, each one was preventable.

The presence of lifeguards at the popular public beach facing The Walk in Jumeirah Beach Residences is limited. The beaches also lack basic safety flags and signs that warn swimmers about perilous conditions. These are of particular need at this time of year when strong undercurrents are most common. A few kilometres away by the public beach next to Burj Al Arab, similar conditions cost another swimmer his life last Friday.

And while people swim at their own risk, emergency response teams should not have so many difficulties to overcome when trying to rescue a swimmer in distress. Cement poles lining The Walk's beach, intended to prevent cars from driving onto the sand, hindered the ability of ambulances to arrive on the scene quickly.

A large and gawking crowd compounded their difficulties. "Good samaritans" attempted to administer CPR but they were untrained. "Everyone is an expert in these situations," lamented Rami, an emergency response paramedic at the scene. "The best thing to do in this scenario is just step back and let the professionals do their job." The police even warned that swimmers could get arrested, but, frustratingly, after a sweep of the beach, many beach-goers simply returned to the water.

Some responsibility should also rest with the swimmers themselves and there are signs on certain sections of beach informing them that they swim at their own risk. However, swimmers still need to be armed with as much information about the dangers as possible and there should always be a minimum level of assistance nearby.

Dubai's authorities are aware of the adverse conditions at this time of year. Dispatching additional coast guards or police patrols near beaches would be a welcome move. Such precautions, however, should be implemented across the coasts of all seven emirates, especially considering the rising number of tourists, and residents, who frequent the beaches.

Should these be implemented efficiently, they would allow more safeguards to be in place when swimmers decide to wade out in perilous conditions. At that point, the burden falls squarely on the shoulders of those willing to take the risk.