Nothing Can 'Prepare You For The Fear' When It Comes To Saving A Life
Australians are twice as likely to drown on a public holiday than any other day of the year and lifeguards are acutely aware of these figures,
During the busiest times of the year, lifeguarding can be "scary" as pools are packed with people of all ages and swimming abilities according to Steph, a Sydney lifeguard.
"Although you are trained for all sorts of scenarios, there is no limit to the amount of training that would compare to the reality that is lifeguarding."
According to the Royal Life Saving Australia in the last 15 years, 210 Australians have drowned on public holidays alone.
Steph said no amount of training will ever "prepare you for the feeling of fear" when a lifeguard has to perform a rescue, as she found out first hand.
After a regular sauna session, an elderly lady entered the pool to waist height.
"She dropped in the water, fully submerged. I was a mere three metres from her and I entered the water, pulling her up and out of the water, to the pool edge," she said.
Steph said she was lucky that the woman regained consciousness soon after, but the lifeguards were ready to go with a defibrillator and oxygen.
"It plays on your mind for ages," she said,
"You constantly look at the pool and assess each swimmer and their demeanour -- if they're weak you need to prevent anything from happening."
Stacey Pidgeon, RLS Senior Research Officer, said a number of factors make public holidays are a particularly dangerous time on our waterways.
"More people are off work and school and visit waterways, so they are at a greater exposure to drowning risk. Good weather also is a factor," she told 10 daily.
Travellers, both international and interstate, are especially vulnerable.
"These people may not be familiar with the conditions and the area, so are at a greater risk of drowning," Pidgeon said.
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Royal Life Saving identified inland waterways as drowning black spots on public holidays.
"Generally these waterways look calm, but conditions can change very quickly," Pidgeon said.
"They generally don't have lifeguards, can be quite cold and you can't see the depth."
The report also highlights men as being four times more likely to drown at these locations than women.
Alcohol plays a particularly worrying factor as well with the risk of drink drowning being twice as high on public holidays.
But even at patrolled locations, Steph said it is important to remember that lifeguards are not "glorified babysitters", and for parents to remain vigilant at all times.
"It is a lifeguard's worst fear to witness a near drowning, participate in a rescue or even have another lifeguard call for emergency back up for an unconscious, unresponsive patron."
Pidgeon said the RLS had a simple message for the upcoming public holidays.
"Check the conditions, know your limits, avoid alcohol, learn CPR and never swim alone."
Feature Image: Getty Images