Water safety

Respect the river

Rivers are the leading location for drowning in Australia. There are a range of perils, from ice cold water to snags from tree branches to strong currents. These dangers may not be immediately visible but they can be lethal.

It’s simple, respect the river.

Never swim alone

It’s important to take care when walking on slippery or uneven surfaces around or in water. Conditions should be checked before entering the water slowly, feet first. Avoid submerged obstacles, such as tree branches and rocks.

Avoid alcohol around water

Alcohol often contributes to drownings. It impairs judgement, encourages greater risk-taking, effects coordination, impairs reaction time and reduces the effectiveness of CPR, should someone require it. On average, approximately a quarter of adult drownings deaths each year involve alcohol, with almost half of these occurring near rivers, creeks and streams. A further 9% of these occur in lakes, dams and lagoons.

Wear a lifejacket

Watercraft related drownings occur in many ways. You should always wear a lifejacket and  be prepared for changing weather conditions. Death can be caused by falls overboard, collisions or using vessels which are not seaworthy. You should never consume alcohol while on a watercraft. On average, 51 people a year drown while using watercraft. After oceans and harbours, rivers, creeks and streams are the second most common location for watercraft related drownings to occur with an average of 11 drownings per year.

Learning lifesaving skills

You can gain the knowledge and skills to administer first aid until medical help arrives. Anyone of us, at any time, may need to give urgent assistance and a Royal Life Saving First Aid or Resuscitation Course will help you develop the skills that might save a life.

Additional advice to swim safe in our river and inland waterways

  • Always enter the water slowly, feet first. Never dive in.
  • Never swim in fast-flowing water. Check the speed first by throwing in a twig to see how fast it travels.
  • Never swim alone.
  • Swim safe. Swim sober. Do not swim under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Riverbeds may be uneven, unstable or slippery, so take care.
  • Be sure of your own swimming ability.
  • Beware any submerged objects such as trees, branches, rocks and discarded rubbish.
  • Look for swirling water, this may indicate rocks or snags just below the surface.
  • Always wear a PFD when in a watercraft.

Remember the river can change hourly. What was safe in the morning, may not be safe in the afternoon.

What to do if you are caught in a river current

  • Stay calm, float on your back, feet first to protect your head from impact with any object
  • Try to remain as horizontal as possible to assist with buoyancy
  • Use any available buoyant object to assist with floatation
  • Breathe in a regular and controlled manner and try to remain as still as possible to conserve energy and reduce heat loss
  • Do not struggle against the current, go with the flow, eventually it will push you towards the bank
  • If you must swim, use slow, relaxed strokes
  • Remember even if you are exhausted, you can float for a long time, so stay calm

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