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EDITORIAL: Think before venturing out

In a province where the coastline for most residents is a short drive, if not visible from their window, water safety is crucial.

And, sadly, people are never more aware of that than after tragic drownings or when reports circulate about someone having a close call.

We should all be aware of the power of the ocean, its tides and currents. Experts want you to know how quickly challenging conditions can overtake a person and how, with some careful observations, to avoid them in the first place.

On Prince Edward Island’s north shore last week a man lost his life after getting caught in a powerful current flow. Then, not long afterward in the same area, a woman and her 12-year-old son wading in the water near Savage Harbour lost their footing as a rip current began carrying them away from shore.

They went through a terrifying ordeal, feeling themselves pushed farther out and fighting to make progress back toward shore. They made it, after an exhausting effort.

It’s that kind of incident that has lifeguards and others familiar with the water’s dynamics advising people how to avoid a similar experience.

Lifeguards at Melmerby Beach, the only supervised beach in Pictou County, say the safer areas for people to enjoy the water is where they can see waves. The places that people need to be especially aware of are the sections of water that look darker, more flat and still – it’s beneath those areas that a rip current potentially poses a danger. And the power can be terrific and sudden, even in a spot that’s relatively shallow.

But the lifeguards further advise what to do if you are caught in such a current. While instinct might tell a person – who might well be panicking in such a situation – to fight through the water directly toward shore, they say that will do more to tire a person, all the while carrying the swimmer out farther.

Their advice is to swim parallel to shore, which will eventually take you out of the strong current and allow an easier swim back toward shore.

Also, they suggest potential rescuers in such a situation try throwing a rope, if it’s available, to a person who’s in trouble.

Still, a lot of people reading or hearing such advice will say that’s all well and good, I get it, but when you’re in panic mode, gut reaction often takes over.

That’s why it’s important for people to discuss these dangers and lifesaving techniques before an emergency. Get to know any peculiarities of the currents at the beaches you’re visiting. Take some time to study the water’s surface before going out any distance. As with anything, a little prevention goes a long way.

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