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Be prepared for a quick response to drownings

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Drowning is a silent yet swift danger that can occur in any body of water. Every year, countless drowning incidents tragically end lives, leaving families devastated and communities mourning. A quick response is vital in saving lives and preventing long-term consequences. In this article, you’ll learn about drowning, essential water safety rules, and practical steps to stay safe around water. Whether you’re a parent, an experienced and strong swimmer, or someone who enjoys water sports, understanding how to respond quickly and effectively to a drowning incident is crucial.

safety tips

Understanding drowning in South Africa

Drowning is the process of experiencing respiratory impairment due to submersion in water. According to a recent epidemiological study conducted by the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) and published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, drowning is a significant public health issue in South Africa. The study provides some alarming statistics:

  • An average of 1,477 drowning fatalities occur annually in South Africa, with an average drowning rate of 2.54 per 100,000 population.
  • About 29% (450) of these fatal drownings involve children under 14 years old, particularly those aged 0-4.
  • The KwaZulu-Natal province has the highest drowning rates in the country.
  • The statistics show that males are more likely to drown than females.

For more information, you can read the full study here​ (MDPI)​.

Additionally, Lifesaving South Africa emphasises that drowning is the second-largest cause of unnatural deaths in children under five years old. This mirrors global trends reported by the World Health Organization. About 1,500 people drown in South Africa every year, making drowning prevention crucial​.

The National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) also shares insightful drowning prevention resources and guides, highlighting the need to educate the public about water safety. The organisation has various proactive initiatives aimed at reducing drowning incidents. Learn more about these initiatives here​ (NSRI).

learning to swim

The importance of quick response

In drowning incidents, time is of the essence. A few seconds can mean the difference between life and death. Here’s how to respond to a drowning incident effectively:

  • Assess the Situation: Ensure it’s safe for you to attempt a rescue without putting yourself at risk. This is very important, don’t risk your own life! 
  • Call for Help: Dial emergency services immediately 
  • Try assist by – Reach, Throw, Row, Go:
  1. Reach: Extend a long object, like a branch, to the victim.
  2. Throw: Toss a flotation device to the victim.
  3. Row: Approach using a boat, if available.
  4. Go: Enter the water as a last resort only if you’re a strong swimmer.

  • Perform CPR: If the victim is not breathing and perform CPR until emergency responders arrive. Attend a first aid course at First Aid Fire and Safety Training and learn how to administer first aid and perform CPR. 

Water safety rules to prevent drowning

While drowning incidents happen quickly and often silently, they are preventable. Following these water safety rules can significantly reduce the risk:

  1. Learn to Swim: Take swimming lessons to become a strong swimmer. Ensure children know basic swimming skills.
  2. Supervise Children: Constantly watch young children near any body of water, even if they know how to swim.
  3. Wear a Life Jacket: Ensure inexperienced swimmers wear good quality or Coast Guard-approved life jackets.
  4. Avoid Alcohol: Never swim or supervise children while under the influence.
  5. Buddy System: Always swim with a buddy, especially in natural bodies of water.
  6. Learn CPR: Take a certified First Aid and CPR course to be prepared in an emergency.
  7. Swim in Designated Areas: Only swim in areas marked safe by lifeguards.
  8. Avoid Shallow Water Diving: Never dive into shallow water to prevent head injuries.
  9. Check the Weather: Avoid swimming in bad weather or strong currents.
  10. Educate Others: Teach family and friends water safety rules to create awareness.

How First Aid Training can help save lives

Quick response to drowning can make a significant difference. Learning CPR and first aid provides you with the necessary skills to assist and try save a life in any unexpected emergency. At First Aid, Fire Safety Training, our courses are designed to help you obtain and build confidence in your first aid and CPR skills so you can respond and assist during drowning emergencies. 

The benefits of Our First Aid Training courses: 

  • Our first aid course are fully accredited in South Africa.
  • Expert Instructors: Paramedics or Professional instructors with years of field experience, teaching good quality first aid knowledge and skills.
  • Our First Aid NQF Level 1 courses includes CPR for adults, children and infants and we also teach delegates how to use an AED – Automated External Defibrillator on first aid. 
  • Our First Aid Level 1 to 3 is a 5 day course and includes the module Drowning Emergencies.  

Book your first aid course today! Equip yourself with life-saving skills and knowledge by booking a first aid course with us. Visit our First Aid Training Courses page to find out additional information about our first aid courses. 


Drowning incidents can be prevented by following water safety tips and educating those around you. Knowing how to respond swiftly and administer first aid and CPR should a

First Aid Kit Checklist

Maintaining a properly stocked first-aid kit in your workplace is crucial, as mandated by 

Regulation 7.

To ensure you’re prepared for emergencies, download our free checklist. It will be a 

valuable resource for responding effectively to any situation requiring first aid.

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