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Hato Hone St John Urges Care In The Water This Summer

With many families heading to one of Aotearoa’s amazing beaches and swimming holes or enjoying a dip in the backyard pool this summer, Hato Hone St John is reminding everyone to stay safe in the water and keep an eye out for whānau and friends.

Last year, Hato Hone St John responded to 434 water incidents across New Zealand – a 14 per cent increase on the previous year. Over the summer season (December 2022 – February 2023), ambulance officers attended almost 200 water incidents – several of which were fatal.

Topping the list of water hotspots requiring an ambulance last summer were Whangarei, Dargaville, Auckland’s North Shore, Mt Maunganui, Hahei, Rotorua, Taupo, Lyttelton, Tairua and Warkworth.

According to Water Safety New Zealand, 85 per cent of drowning victims last year were male, with drownings from unintentional immersion making up over 30 per cent of the country’s annual drowning toll for the five-year period to 2022.

Drowning Prevention Auckland is urging people to check the depth of the water and find a safe entry and exit point before they get in. DPA’s chief executive Nicola Keen-Biggelaar says “If people do find themselves in difficulty in the water, float on their back as a first response using the Float First survival steps. Once their breathing is under control, they should let someone know they are in trouble by calling out or signalling with their arm.”

Dan Ohs, Hato Hone St John Deputy Chief Executive – Ambulance Operations, says water safety is already on the minds of ambulance officers around the country, with the emergency ambulance service starting to see a rise in water-related incidents as people flock to beaches and swimming pools due to the warmer weather.

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“Our workload increases over summer, especially at popular swimming hotspots around the motu, and we want people to have fun in the water, but please know your limits and keep an eye out for whānau and friends so everyone can stay safe,” says Mr Ohs.

Andy Everiss, Hato Hone St John District Operations Manager – Tāmaki Makaurau, says ambulance officers are already gearing up for a busy summer, while anticipating more callouts involving inflatable backyard pools.

“This summer is anticipated to be longer, hotter, and drier, and inflatable pools seem to be popular with families this year. A lot of these inflatable pools are quite big and deep, too, with high sides and ladders to get into them, so please make sure you don’t take your eyes off your tamariki in and around that new inflatable pool you’ve bought for Christmas,” Mr Everiss says.

Hato Hone St John wishes everyone a safe and enjoyable summer and offers some tips on staying safe in and on the water:

  • Many of the water-related incidents attended by ambulance officers are preventable and unfortunately alcohol often plays a part – so it’s best to avoid it.
  • If you see someone in trouble in the water, stay calm and get help immediately – alert any lifeguards on duty or seek out others to assist.
  • If it’s safe for you to do so, get the person out of the water, check if they are breathing and if they have a pulse. If there’s no pulse, start CPR immediately and ensure someone has called 111 for an ambulance.
  • If you’re boating, wear a correctly fitted life jacket, tell someone where you’re going and know exactly where your location is.
  • Always supervise children around water.
  • Be aware of dangers and risks such as rips at the beach, and always swim between the flags or near a lifeguard if possible.
  • Avoid swimming alone as water conditions can change quickly and unexpectedly.
  • Lastly, if you’re in, on, or around water this summer, remember to protect yourself from the sun’s harsh rays by seeking shade during the hottest part of the day, covering up with clothing and regularly reapplying sunscreen – and don’t forget to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day.

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