A preventable tragedy on a Viga beach
posted 14-Sep-2019  ·  
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Last Sunday’s tragedy at a beach in Tambongon, Viga, where an 11-year old girl and her nine-year old brother died, should never have happened.

Like what occurred during the Holy Week in Caramoran and Baras where two other children drowned at sea while unattended, both Ysha Jane and Mark Justin Orcilada were with a cousin when they decided, with their parents’ permission, to swim for some more minutes.

The girl’s body was found an hour later while that of her brother was recovered by barangay officials in the evening.

Sadly, all these drowning deaths are preventable and far too many, as one experienced head of a Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (LDRRMO) noted recently.

Unfortunately, many in the island’s population do not observe water safety procedures, among them the close supervision of children, to prevent drowning.

The American Red Cross urges that every member of the family learn to swim so they at least achieve skills of water competency: able to enter the water, get a breath, stay afloat, change position, swim a distance then get out of the water safely.

One member should know what to do in a water emergency – including how to help someone in trouble in the water safely, call for emergency help and Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR).

All these skills one can get during the annual Summer Safety Institute conducted by the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) Catanduanes Chapter, just several days of training in First Aid-Basic Life Support (FA-BLS) and Water Safety for a reasonable registration fee.

As one safety organization in the United States notes, swimming skills make a big difference. Giving children aged one to four formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning by as much as 88 percent, it says.

While a provincial ordinance authored by Provincial Board Member Giovanni Balmadrid mandates resorts, swimming pools and bathing facilities to employ qualified lifeguards to ensure public safety, the local law is not being strictly followed.

It should be emphasized that the ordinance covers only privately-operated water-based recreation facilities. It does not say anything about ensuring health and safety in public swimming areas, particularly in popular beaches, a mandate of local government units.

LGUs should adopt the water safety system implemented by US states, where beaches have floating colored buoys indicating areas where swimmers should go beyond due to dangerous surf or underwater conditions.

Each LDRRMO can assign during each weekend, when many converge on public beaches to unwind, one trained lifeguard in each area.

The LGU can afford it, considering the many do-nothing casuals they hire during the year who only sit around or play games on their gadgets and desktop computers.

And they can likewise employ those trained by the local Red Cross on Standard First Aid-CPR and Basic Water Safety and Rescue only for the weekends if the mayor wants to save money to hire more do-nothing casuals.

They can likewise check on local beach conditions, place red buoys where swimming would be dangerous particularly the presence of rip tides or currents, and place appropriate warning flags right on the beach to inform swimmers of sea conditions.

These proactive moves should be done on a regular basis by the LDRRMOs to prevent accidents at the beach instead of simply sharpening their skills on rescuing drowning victims.

Too many rescues mean the government is not doing enough to prevent such accidents.

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