x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Swimmers are their own worst enemies, rescue officers say

Each weekend, Dubai Police rescue officers play a cat-and-mouse game with beachgoers who pay scant attention to warnings.

The Dubai Police Rescue team on a rescue drill, to show on how they save people's lives on an actual situation, at Jumeirah beach.
The Dubai Police Rescue team on a rescue drill, to show on how they save people's lives on an actual situation, at Jumeirah beach.

DUBAI // Crowded beaches during weekends and inclement weather are among the challenges rescue police face at the beach, but the biggest challenge of all, they say, is a lack of safety awareness among the public.

"For us, every weekend comes with new challenges: large numbers of people take to the beaches, and it gets worse with bad weather conditions and people not listening to our advice," Mohammed Juma, a member of the Dubai Police rescue force, said. "Many times we play a cat-and-mouse game with beachgoers. We go to one end of the beach to let people know that they should not swim, but the second we turn our backs they're in the water at the other end."

With no lifeguards to ensure safety, the police's rescue patrols are often the last line of defence for beachgoers in the emirate.

When a Dubai Police rescuer spots a person in trouble, his first task is to report the incident to the operations room and request an ambulance.

Immediately after doing so, the rescuer picks up a red lifesaving buoy, runs into the water and swims towards the victim. Once he reaches the victim he grabs him by the shoulders and pulls him out of the water.

If a victim is unconscious when brought to shore, he is immediately put on his side in a recovery position. All rescue teams are trained in first aid and CPR.

Mr Juma and his colleagues on the rescue unit aim to reach any victim within seven minutes of an incident being reported. But in beach rescue operations that occur within 50 metres of the shore, the goal is to begin the rescue within two to three minutes.

"The time it takes for the rescuer to get to someone depends on several factors: how far away the person is, what condition the victim is in, and the weather conditions that day," said Zayed Mohammed, 32, also a rescue officer.

He was one of the officers who took part in the attempt to save Haja Mohammed Ismailuddin, the 26-year-old Indian who drowned while swimming on March 4 at Dubai. Two of his friends were seriously injured during the same incident.

"Sometimes unexplained things happen," Mr Mohammed said. "In this case, everything happened so quickly. We immediately spotted them and jumped to their rescue, but they were already unconscious. It took only 40 seconds for one of them to lose consciousness. I think he panicked and that aggravated the situation."

Mohammed Mohammed, 19, is one of the youngest rescuers in the unit. He and Mr Juma, 30, patrol their assigned stretch of sand in a red and white 4x4. The patrol teams also use small boats and jet skis.

They start their day at 6am with a few exercises and by 7.30am they are geared up for work.

"During bad weather conditions the patrols are increased, but at the same time we need to be more observant of what is happening and we need to warn the public of the dangers of swimming in such bad conditions," Mr Juma said.

wissa@thenational.ae