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IN THE MEDIA

"Be aware of the dangers of flash floods"

Letter from SLSS President Richard Tan Ming Kirk which was published in the Straits Times Forum of 27 January 2017.

In the light of the recent wet weather, the public should be made aware of the dangers, including the risk of injuries and drowning, during flash floods (“Flash floods and jams as rain blankets S’pore”; Jan 24).

Flash-flood water moves extremely fast and is relentless. This often causes the water level to rise very quickly, and a victim caught in a flash flood can be swept away extremely swiftly.

Furthermore, flash-flood water may be contaminated. There might also be hazards in the built environment (such as drains) as well as floating hazards (such as floating furniture or other objects).

All these factors increase the dangers of flash floods.

It is also unlikely that a rescuer can arrive in time to save a victim of a flash flood from drowning.

Therefore, it is crucial for everyone to understand the importance of getting away from flooded areas and moving to higher ground without delay until the floodwater recedes.

Teachers and parents should also let the children know the dangers of floods.

Richard Tan Ming Kirk

President

Singapore Life Saving Society

"Articles by courtesy of SPH - The Straits Times"

 

"Do more to prevent drowning"

Letter from SLSS President Richard Tan Ming Kirk which was published in the Straits Times Forum Online of 3 August 2016

We understand from the Registry of Births and Deaths that there were 17 accidental drowning deaths and six drowning deaths where the intent could not be determined last year.

This means that the total number, as well as the rate for deaths by drowning (excluding drowning deaths by suicide and assault), increased last year after falling for four consecutive years.

In addition, there were another 18 suicidal drowning deaths last year. These 18 suicidal drowning deaths have overtaken the 17 suicidal drowning deaths in 2014 as the second highest number of suicidal drowning deaths since 1965.

Last year was also the second consecutive year in which suicidal drowning deaths exceeded accidental drowning deaths. Thus, the concern we raised previously ("Suicidal drownings a growing concern"; Oct 12, 2015) seems to be justified.

These signs are worrying.

Furthermore, deaths from drowning normally represent the tip of the iceberg, and non-fatal drowning injuries usually affect more people.

Injuries arising from non-fatal drowning incidents may be quite serious - for example, brain damage - and can also cause long-term disabilities, like the permanent loss of basic functions.

Unfortunately, we do not know the extent of the non-fatal drowning situation in Singapore, and we are not aware of any information concerning this that is available to the public.

In the United States, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention statistics show that for every child who dies from drowning, five others receive emergency department care for injuries from non-fatal drowning.

In the Netherlands, it has been estimated that for every child drowning death, there are five non-fatal hospital admissions and six visits to emergency departments.

The likelihood is that there are also many more people with non-fatal drowning injuries than those who die from drowning in Singapore.

More can be done to prevent deaths and injuries from drowning, and we hope more will be done by everyone concerned. The continuous efforts of all the authorities, agencies and people concerned are necessary for the prevention of drowning.

The price of water safety is much like the price of liberty, that is, eternal vigilance.

Richard Tan Ming Kirk

President

Singapore Life Saving Society

 

HELPLINES
- Samaritans of Singapore: 1800-221-4444
- Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019
- Institute of Mental Health's Mobile Crisis Service: 6389-2222
- Care Corner Counselling Centre (Mandarin): 1800-353-5800

 

"Articles by courtesy of SPH - The Straits Times"

 

"Time to review pool entry rules?"

Letter from SLSS President Richard Tan Ming Kirk which was published in the Straits Times of 5 July 2016

The state coroner's comments on the tragic drowning of a three-year-old boy ("Toddler's drowning a 'tragic misadventure' "; last Thursday) are a sad reminder of the need to keep constant watch over children. This is because drowning can be a quick and silent killer.

Unless thinking about water safety and taking preventive measures become a habit for us, we are likely to continue to get such reminders.

Years ago, I told some pool operators that it seemed odd to me that while our golf clubs require a person to pass a proficiency test before he is able to play on their golf courses, our pool operators (including golf clubs that have pools) do not have a minimum swimming proficiency test before people are allowed unrestricted entry to their pools.

Perhaps it is time for our pool operators to review their rules. This will ensure that entrants into swimming facilities do not have unrestricted or unsupervised entry unless they pass a minimum water or swimming proficiency test.

A number of pool operators overseas have already implemented rules of such a nature.

There will be some inconvenience but, like the security measures taken at airports, most people are likely to understand and appreciate them eventually.

Another safety measure that pool operators may consider is the wearing of coloured wrist bands for all or younger pool users.

For example, in some pools in Canada, when children under 10 years old pay for pool entry, the cashier will secure an orange band to their wrists, which restricts them to areas of shallow water.

The band will be removed by the staff only after they pass a swim test.

The prevention of drowning needs to be a constant and comprehensive effort to be effective. Each additional safety measure will help to reduce the likelihood of drowning incidents taking place.

Richard Tan Ming Kirk

President

Singapore Life Saving Society

 

"Articles by courtesy of SPH - The Straits Times"

 

"Suicidal drownings a growing concern"

Letter from SLSS President Richard Tan Ming Kirk which was published in the Straits Times of 12 October 2015

According to the Registry of Births and Deaths, there were a total of 10 deaths due to accidental drowning last year.
 

We also understand that there were 17 deaths due to suicidal drowning last year.
 

Based on our records, the 17 suicidal drowning deaths last year make up the second-highest number of suicidal drowning deaths since 1965.
 

More importantly, it is also the first time that deaths by suicidal drowning have exceeded deaths by accidental drowning in Singapore.
 

It may be too early to say that this is the start of a trend but it is still a cause for concern for us.
 

The reason is that the real problem here is not drowning but suicide.
 

This might not be that surprising, since suicide is reportedly among the top causes of death in Singapore (“Heart attack, suicide among top killers here”; Dec 19, 2014).
 

While the number of suicides appears to be coming down, it has been reported that more people have been arrested for committing suicide last year as compared with 2013 (“More arrested for attempting suicide”; July 18).
 

Studies have found that the majority of people who fail in a first suicide attempt by drowning do not go on later to successfully commit suicide.
 

A 2007 study from Ireland also indicates that people attempting suicidal drowning frequently will not resist being rescued.
 

While a rescue by lifesavers or lifeguards is one of the ways a suicidal drowning may be prevented, it may not happen very often.
 

This is because a person attempting suicide may choose to drown in a body of water in an isolated location or at a time when no one else is around.
 

In any case, our organisation will look into developing greater expertise in the rescue of people involved in suicidal drowning, as well as other preventive measures.
 

However, since the main problem is suicide rather than drowning, the early detection of people with suicidal tendencies and their prompt treatment is likely to be a better strategy to address the matter.
 

This requires a major effort that we hope will be taken by everyone concerned.
 

Richard Tan Ming Kirk
President
Singapore Life Saving Society

 

HELPLINES
SOS: 1800-221-4444 (24-hour)
Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019
IMH Mobile Crisis Service: 6389-2222 (24-hour)
Care Corner Counselling Centre (Mandarin): 1800-353-5800
Aware: 1800-774-5935


"Articles by courtesy of SPH - The Straits Times"

 

"Constantly keep watch over kids around water"

Letter from SLSS President Richard Tan Ming Kirk which was published in the Straits Times of 24 June 2015

We are sad to read about the recent drowning of a seven-year old boy (“Boy, 7, drowns in RWS pool during family trip; last Wednesday”).

Although it was reported that there were lifeguards around, their presence only reduces the risks of drowning and does not eliminate them.

It is still important to constantly watch over children whenever they are in or around the water. There are a number of reasons for this, including the following:

1) Children may be prevented from entering the water or entering deeper water before they can do so and put themselves in danger.

2) A drowning person can struggle to keep his head above the water for only a very short period of time before he is overwhelmed. A study of actual film footage of drowning cases captured by camera from the United States found that this period generally ranges from 20 to 60 seconds.

3) Drowning is a silent killer. The reason a drowning victim is unable to shout for help is that the main purpose of the respiratory system is breathing and speech is a secondary function. This is consistent with observations that drowning victims do not have enough time to exhale and inhale and still call for help in the limited time they struggle to keep above the water.

4) The same study also showed that apart from being unable to call or wave for help, drowning victims often look as though they are playing in the water when they are actually drowning.

Without a constant watch over children who are in or around the water, the risks of them drowning will increase.

Other measures to help prevent or reduce the risks of drowning include having children taught to swim and survive in the water and having parents and guardians learn life-saving skills.

Richard Tan Ming Kirk
President
Singapore Life Saving Society

 

"Articles by courtesy of SPH - The Straits Times"

 

"All should learn life-saving skills"

Letter from SLSS President Richard Tan Ming Kirk which was published in the Straits Times of 4 May 2013

WE ARE saddened by the drowning death of a national serviceman ("NSF drowned in S'pore River after drinking"; Tuesday). We wish to highlight three matters arising from the report.

First, people should not consume alcohol if they are going to swim or enter the water. As the forensic pathologist quoted in the report indicated, a high blood-alcohol level adversely affects a person's abilities.

Alcohol use is a well-known risk factor in drowning deaths. In a meta-analysis of non-traffic deaths involving alcohol in the United States published in 1999, alcohol use was attributed to 49 per cent of adult drownings.

Second, we advise against alcohol consumption by people supervising children or others in water recreation activities. Some experts have highlighted this as an important risk factor. This is probably because alcohol use is likely to impair their abilities and capability to take the necessary actions if those they supervise get into trouble in the water.

Third, we urge the public to learn life-saving.

While we commend the national serviceman's cousin for attempting to save him, it was not mentioned if the rescue was attempted with a rescue aid.

Life-savers are taught that attempting to rescue a drowning person by entering the water without a rescue aid is to be avoided as much as possible. It should be attempted by only the most experienced and fittest rescuers.

It is always preferable to attempt a rescue from land (for example, by throwing a rope) or to enter the water with some flotation aid (for example, a life buoy) that may be passed to the drowning person. These methods prevent the rescuer from coming into direct contact with the drowning person and reduce the risks to the former. This is because a person in difficulties in the water is likely to grab at anything that floats, and that includes the rescuer.

We not only administer lifeguard certification, but also have a number of life-saving training programmes that teach water rescue skills to non-swimmers. Everyone, including non-swimmers, can learn life-saving skills.

Richard Tan Ming Kirk
President
Singapore Life Saving Society

 

"Articles by courtesy of SPH - The Straits Times"

 

"Be careful about swimming in sea"
 
Letter from SLSS President Richard Tan Ming Kirk which was published in the Straits Times of 3 February 2012

THE efforts of the National Environment Agency and national water agency PUB to improve the water quality at Pasir Ris beach are to be commended ('Pasir Ris beach: Safe for swimming again'; last Saturday).

However, saying that the beach is now safe for swimming again may give the public the wrong impression that water quality is the only factor to be considered before swimming in the sea.

The sea may have other dangers including strong currents, venomous marine life and underwater hazards (like sudden drop-offs and submerged objects). These dangers might lead to injury or even death by drowning and swimmers should also be concerned about them.

Research based on lifeguard rescue and resuscitation data in the United States and Australia makes a strong argument for swimming only in areas supervised by lifeguards.

In fact, the World Health Organisation has mentioned the provision of properly trained and equipped lifeguards as a drowning prevention measure in its guidelines for safe recreational waters.

The deployment of lifeguards is also one of the key drowning prevention strategies of the International Life Saving Federation. It is also recommended by many water safety organisations all over the world.

Lifeguards are trained to monitor water and weather conditions and also to act on the risky behaviour of swimmers and other beachgoers. In addition, they have the rescue and resuscitation skills that may be crucial in a life-threatening situation.

From an injury and drowning perspective, it is safer for beachgoers to swim only in areas under the surveillance of lifeguards.

Richard Tan Ming Kirk
President
Singapore Life Saving Society

 

"Articles by courtesy of SPH - The Straits Times"

 

"Drowning is a silent killer, parents warned"
 
Letter from SLSS President Richard Tan Ming Kirk which was published in the Straits Times of 4 October 2011

THE STATE Coroner's call for parents to constantly supervise young children in open waters and swimming pools ('Toddler's drowning at Changi ruled an accident'; Sept 27) is an important message that parents and swimmers should bear in mind.
 
Many deaths by drowning involve children who are under the care of someone. There are a number of misconceptions about drowning that often lead to inadequate supervision. These include:

  • Drowning persons will shout and wave for help: This is not true because drowning is a silent killer. Research based on video footage of drowning in the United States has shown that drowning victims are unable to call or wave for help. This is due to the victim's instinctive struggle to breathe and stay above the water. Furthermore, the main purpose of a person's respiratory system is breathing and speech is a secondary function. Drowning victims also do not have enough time to exhale and inhale, and still call or wave for help while they try to keep afloat.
  • Victims drown only in deep water: Depth is not required for a drowning. There are cases of children drowning in pails and bathtubs which are filled with only centimetres of water. Depth is less significant than the amount of water inside a person that prevents him from breathing and very little water is needed for that.
  • Swimmers do not drown: There are many cases of swimmers who drown. Being able to swim reduces the risk of drowning but it does not prevent it entirely. Swimmers may drown for several reasons such as being in unfamiliar waters, like being in open water or rough seas for the first time, or if they are in distress such as suffering from cramps or an injury.
     

A better understanding of drowning will help reduce its likelihood. Apart from constant supervision, parents should take other steps to prevent drowning. These include learning life-saving and resuscitation and having water activities only in areas under the surveillance of lifeguards. E-mail the Singapore Life Saving Society at slss@pacific.net.sg or call 6299-3660 for information.


Richard Tan Ming Kirk
President
Singapore Life Saving Society

 

"Articles by courtesy of SPH - The Straits Times"


 

"Wearing of life jackets"

 

In response to queries from The Straits Times about the drowning deaths in a recent boating incident near Mersing, SLSS President Richard M K Tan gave some comments (published in The Straits Times of 29 December 2010 under the heading "Angler puts safety first after bad experience") including the following:

 

1. Put on a life jacket or personal flotation device once on board a boat. If you wait until the boat starts to sink, it's like putting on your seat belt when your car is about to crash. When a boat sinks, it creates a vortex that drags everything down; with forces so great, there is not much you can do.

 

2. If you are in the water without a life jacket, look for something that can act as a float or make a float with your clothing.

 

3. Avoid getting on to boats that are obviously overcrowded. You are taking a huge risk by going on board. Even if there isn't bad weather, the boat could give.

 

 

 

"Shallow water blackouts"

 

In response to recent queries from The Straits Times and Today newspapers in early September 2008 about "shallow water blackouts", SLSS President, Richard Tan Ming Kirk, gave some comments including the following:

 

1. Shallow water blackout usually involves the loss of consciousness after someone has been holding his breath or has been hyperventilating (i.e. over breathing). Both strong and weak swimmers may be affected by shallow water blackouts. Strong swimmers or breath-hold free divers (i.e. skin divers) who hyperventilate in order to extend their underwater or bottom time are particularly at risk. However, weak swimmers may also hyperventilate because they are anxious and therefore put themselves at risk. Hyperventilation increases the amount of oxygen in the body while at the same time reducing the amount of carbon dioxide. Rising carbon dioxide levels in the body actually help to trigger the urge to breathe. Therefore, depleting the body's carbon dioxide levels increases the likelihood of shallow water blackouts. This is because the lack of an urge to breathe can result in the deprivation of oxygen going to the brain and cause unconsciousness. It may be difficult for the victim to realise that he is going to experience a shallow water blackout since this often happens suddenly. However, it has been said that some victims experience dizziness and a loss of vision shortly before it happens.


2. From the above, it can be seen that it is very difficult to do anything once you are going to be a victim of shallow water blackout.  Therefore, prevention is always the better strategy.

 

3. We would advise people to take the following precautions -
    (a) Do not hyperventilate
    (b) Do not enter the water or swim when you are anxious or nervous.
    (c) Surface above the water to breathe whenever the urge arises
    (d) Do not hold your breath
    (e) Breathe normally
    (f) Do not swim alone

 

 

 

"Life saving society's note of caution"
 

Letter from Honorary Secretary-General, Tan Lii Chong, an edited copy of which was published in the Straits Times Interactive ST Online Forum, 8 July 2008

I REFER to reports on the recent drowning at Raffles Marina.

The Singapore Life Saving Society (SLSS) strongly believes that every drowning is one too many. On this note, the SLSS sends its heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family of the late Mr Levin Agsana, the latest victim of drowning in Singapore waters.

The SLSS also echoes the views of Mr Teo Ser Luck and Dr Teo Ho Pin who have commented on this incident. Although the SLSS cannot comment on whether putting on a life jacket will hinder performance, or worse, make it more dangerous for the athlete to pursue a particular aquatic sport, the reality is that, unless one puts on a life jacket, it is quite certain that anticipated dangers will make themselves present mercilessly, as this latest case has shown.

As the saying goes, no one plans to fail, but some fail to plan. In any aquatic emergency, the individual in distress will normally have only split seconds to decide the next course of action in order to survive.

Therefore, any prior relevant training - such as basic swimming competence, swimming with and without life jacket, and drill in case of capsize - will certainly put the individual in a better position to focus on his next course of action if there is no imminent danger that he will be unable to breathe.

Furthermore, it cannot be anticipated that no other injury will occur. For example, the victim may become unconscious or semi-conscious should there be any impact to the head, or other severe injuries may impede body movement.

In such cases, wearing a life jacket may be the best survival kit an individual who finds himself in aquatic distress can rely on.

Having provided these examples, the SLSS is in no position to suggest that no aquatic tragedy will ever occur so long as one always wears a life jacket in the water. The main purpose of this letter is to caution readers that, when engaging in any activity in the water, one should never underestimate the dangers of water and one should follow all necessary water-safety measures.

We welcome members of the public who seek necessary water-safety advice from the SLSS office. Telephone 6299-3660 or e-mail slss@pacific.net.sg.

Tan Lii Chong
Honorary Secretary-General
Singapore Life Saving Society

"Articles by courtesy of SPH - The Straits Times"

 

 

 

"Safer to try reach or throw rescue in drowning cases"
 
Letter from Honorary Secretary-General, Richard Tan Ming Kirk, an edited copy of which was published in the Straits Times of 14 December 2006

The report "Father drowns while trying to save son from strong current" (ST, Dec 11) shows the dangers of the sea and of attempting to rescue a person in the water.

We have already written about the dangers of the sea in the past and would refer interested persons to our previous letter "Take extra care when swimming in sea" (ST, Sep 9, 2004). In this letter, we would like to highlight the dangers of trying to rescue someone in water.
 

Both trained rescuers and lay persons have been known to become victims in the course of attempting to rescue others. This may be due to a lack of the necessary skills, fitness or equipment. It may also be due to a misjudgment of the conditions present. Therefore, it is always better to prevent the occurrence of a drowning situation than to attempt a rescue.
 

However, in the unfortunate case where there is a need to rescue someone, the paramount consideration should always be the lifesaver¢s own safety and rescues that can be performed without entering the water are safer. For example, a reach (with a pole) or throw (with a rope) rescue should always be considered first. Only when such techniques are not likely to work should the rescuer consider entering the water. Even then, he should enter the water as far as possible with rescue aids like life buoys or swim floats. These may then be passed to the victim to keep him buoyant and reduce the need to make contact. The reason for avoiding contact is that a person in difficulties in the water is likely to grab at anything that floats and that includes the rescuer. Hence, in our lifesaving courses, we teach defensive techniques to prevent a victim from grabbing a rescuer who is attempting a rescue. We also teach escape techniques to enable a rescuer to escape from any unexpected grasp.

The above only mentions some of the knowledge and skills required before a rescuer can attempt a rescue properly. We would therefore encourage people to take up a lifesaving course to equip themselves with the knowledge and skills necessary for safer rescue attempts so that they are prepared should the need arise.

More information on lifesaving courses (together with our previous letter mentioned above and relevant contact details) may be found on our website at
www.slss.org.sg


Richard Tan Ming Kirk
Honorary Secretary-General
Singapore Life Saving Society

 

"Articles by courtesy of SPH - The Straits Times"

 

 

 

"Deploy lifeguards at swimming pools to prevent accidents"

 

Letter from Honorary Secretary-General, Richard Tan Ming Kirk, an edited copy of which was published in the Straits Times Interactive ST Online Forum, 13 December 2006

 
We refer to your reports (ST, Dec 2 and ST, Dec 8) on the two young boys who died in separate drowning incidents. It is pertinent to note that they drowned despite a grandparent keeping an eye in one case and a parent doing the same in the other. Sadly, the cases highlight the risks of swimming in places without lifeguards.
 
Lay persons are not trained to recognise persons in distress in water. In fact, many people assume that a drowning person will shout and wave for help. However, drowning is often a silent killer. It has been said that the reason why drowning victims are unable to shout is because the respiratory system was designed for breathing and speech is a secondary function. It has been observed that drowning victims do not have enough time to exhale and inhale and still call for help in the limited time they struggle to keep above the water.
 
Many people also do not realise how short a time drowning persons can struggle to keep their heads above the the water before they are overwhelmed. One study found that they can only struggle to keep their heads above the water for 20 to 60 seconds. This results in a very short time before they disappear under the water. For this reason, one lifeguard organisation has recommended a 10 seconds scanning rule i.e. a lifeguard should scan his entire zone every 10 seconds or risk not spotting a drowning victim. Few lay persons know this or are as vigilant.
 
They also do not know what to do in a drowning incident. In fact, there are cases of rescuers becoming victims themselves. Lifeguards would know how to minimise the risks when effecting a rescue. They also know resuscitation techniques and how to provide emergency care.
 
For these and other reasons, we have always urged the authorities and pool owners to have lifeguards whenever pools and other aquatic facilities are open for use. We also encourage everyone to learn water survival and lifesaving skills and schools to teach these skills.
 
Our non-profit organisation is dedicated to promoting water safety and lifesaving and will be happy to assist with information on water safety, lifesaving, lifeguard training and other drowning prevention matters. For more information, please contact our Manager by calling 6299-3660, faxing 6299-0693 or emailing slss@pacific.net.sg
 
Richard Tan Ming Kirk
Honorary Secretary-General

Singapore Life Saving Society

 

"Articles by courtesy of SPH - The Straits Times"

 

"Treat all bodies of water as potential hazards"

Letter from Honorary Secretary-General, Richard Tan Ming Kirk, an edited copy of which was published in the Straits Times Interactive ST Online Forum, 8 September 2006

The report, "Worker drowns after cart rolls into golf course pond" (ST; Sep 2, 2006) highlights the danger of falling into a pond. While deep water is normally more risky than shallow water, the Singapore Life Saving Society considers every body or container of water a potential hazard. Drownings have been known to occur in water of as little as five centimetres in depth.

Owners, occupiers and managers of properties where bodies of water are found should therefore try to control or restrict access to them as well as take appropriate preventive measures. In addition, they should also consider providing adequate warning and making rescue equipment easily available.

The fact that these waters are not normally intended for swimming may lead people to mistakenly think that drownings are unlikely to occur there. However, our records reveal that drownings do occur in many places that are not intended for swimming e.g. reservoirs, rivers and even drains. Experience from more developed countries have shown that relatively simple changes made to the environment in and around waters can help reduce the incidence of drowning. Therefore, we would urge everyone concerned to treat all bodies of water as potential hazards and to take the necessary steps to address them. Some of the measures that have been recommended in other countries include the following:

Fencing

Fencing is a useful method of restricting access to water and pool fencing has been especially effective in reducing the incidence of drowning in young children in Australia. It creates a physical barrier that is not easily breached and helps to prevent most accidental entries into the water.

 

Planting

The planting of aquatic vegetation and vegetation in and beside bodies of water has been recommended in the United Kingdom as a possible protection that may also be aesthetic at the same time.

 

Grading

Providing for a gentle gradient above and below the water line is helpful in reducing the risks of drowning. This is because there is research to show that many people who drown do so in water that is near their own standing depth. If there is a gentle underwater gradient from the water edge, the chances of a person being able to stand with their head above the water and thus avoiding drowning is much higher.

Another point that has been highlighted by your report was that the man who drowned could not swim. The relationship between the ability to swim and the risk of drowning is still not proven because few studies have been done in this area and ethical reasons have also prevented the duplication of realistic drowning scenarios. However, not many people would argue that under similar conditions, someone who cannot swim is less likely to drown than someone who can. While acknowledging the lack of research in this area, experts at the World Congress of Drowning 2002 nonetheless recommended that all individuals should learn to swim because it is a major skill to prevent drowning. We would also make the same recommendation.

The Singapore Life Saving Society is a non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting water safety and lifesaving and we will be happy to assist interested persons with more information. They may call our manager or senior executive at 6299-3660, fax them at 6299-0693 or email them at slss@pacific.net.sg

Richard Tan Ming Kirk
Honorary Secretary-General
Singapore Life Saving Society

 

"Articles by courtesy of SPH - The Straits Times"

 

 

"Lower Seletar Reservoir & Hillington Green Condominium Drowning Incidents"

Letter from Honorary Secretary General, Richard Tan Ming Kirk, published in the Straits Times, 1 July 2005

Re.: Lower Seletar Reservoir & Hillington Green Condominium Drowning Incidents

The Singapore Life Saving Society (SLSS) is sad to find out that two young lives were lost in separate drowning incidents over the weekend and another young boy drowned two days before that.

Two of the drowning incidents occurred in swimming pools and the third occurred near the sea. According to our records, swimming pools, rivers and the sea are frequently the locations with the highest number of drownings. Yet, deaths from drowning are often preventable and everyone can play a part.

We would like to highlight the following in the interest of drowning prevention:

Environmental design changes around waters that attract people -

Changes made to the environment in and around waters that attract people can reduce the incidence of drowning. These changes would include having buoys and markers to delimit swimming areas and lifesaving devices like life buoys and lines, poles and prominent signs. One study in the United States found that when such changes were made in inland lakes open to recreation activities, recreation-related drowning fell by 73% even though visitor numbers increased by 66%.

We urge the relevant authorities to put up prominent and clear warning signs so that people will avoid swimming in unsafe areas. In addition, we also urge them to make available easily accessible lifesaving aids like life buoys and poles for use by rescuers should anyone inadvertently fall into the water and need to be rescued. Such aids improve the chances of a successful rescue while reducing the risks to persons attempting the rescue.


Employ lifeguards -

Studies have shown that supervision by lifeguards reduce drownings and near-drownings and the SLSS has always advocated that persons responsible for swimming pools and aquatic facilities employ lifeguards and also install drowning prevention and lifesaving aids. Lifeguards bring with them the knowledge and skills that an untrained parent or minder may not have and lifesaving aids greatly facilitate a safe rescue. In an aquatic emergency, prompt and correct action is critical to the saving of life.

We again urge persons in charge of swimming pools and aquatic facilities that are open to swimmers and other users to employ lifeguards during their opening hours.


Self-help -

Parents, swimmers and users of aquatic facilities can exercise self-help through the following ways:

- learn water-survival, swimming and lifesaving skills.
- avoid swimming alone.
- be vigilant in keeping an eye on younger and weaker swimmers.
- avoid swimming pools and swimming areas where there are no lifeguards around.
- urge persons responsible for swimming pools and swimming areas to employ lifeguards and install drowning-prevention and lifesaving aids.


The SLSS, a non-profit organisation with a mission to promote aquatic safety and lifesaving, will be happy to assist interested persons with information and training on water safety, lifesaving, lifeguard skills and other drowning prevention matters. They may call our Manager at 6299-3660, fax him at 6299-0693 or email him at
slss@pacific.net.sg
 

Richard Tan Ming Kirk
Honorary Secretary-General
Singapore Life Saving Society

 

"Articles by courtesy of SPH - The Straits Times"

 

 

 

"Take extra care when swimming in sea"

Letter from Honorary Secretary General, Richard Tan Ming Kirk, published in the Straits Times, 9 September 2004

Re.: Take extra care when swimming in sea

The Singapore Life Saving Society is sad to learn that one Singaporean drowned and another went missing in the sea off Phuket on Monday ("One dead, another missing in Phuket outing"; ST September 1).

We would like to highlight to members of the public that the sea has many dangers for swimmers and other visitors and they include the following:

·    waves that can vary greatly in size, intensity and frequency;
·    rip currents (i.e. fast flowing currents moving seaward) that are able to carry a person very far out from the shore;
·    lateral currents (i.e. currents that run roughly parallel to the shore) that make it difficult to swim to shore;
·    underwater hazards like depressions, sudden drop-offs and submerged objects; changing water conditions;
·    venomous marine life;
·    seaweeds; and
·    water crafts of all kinds.

Therefore, members of the public should take special precautions when they are at the seaside and these include:

·    swim and dive only in designated areas.
·    swim only when there is a lifeguard on duty.
·    obey the lifeguard or other beach authority at all times.
·    avoid water crafts.
·    obey all rules and regulations of the seaside.
·    do not consume alcohol.
·    obey all warning signs.
·    do not swim alone.
·    learn water-survival and lifesaving skills before going into the water.

We would also like to point out that the seas in foreign countries might pose a greater danger to Singapore residents because of a number of reasons. For example, we may not be familiar with the strength of their waves and currents or the temperature of their seawater. Furthermore, the warnings may be given in a foreign language and the warning signs may also be different. As a consequence, greater care should be exercised in a foreign location and it is advisable to contact the local lifesaving society or lifeguard organisation for more safety information before swimming there.

Our society, a non-profit organisation, is a national member of the Royal Life Saving Society Commonwealth and the International Lifesaving Federation. We have contacts with many lifesaving organisations worldwide and would be happy to provide interested persons or organisations with the contact details of these organisations. We would also be happy to provide information and training on water safety, lifesaving, lifeguard training and other drowning prevention matters.

Interested persons may call the society's Manager at 6299-3660, fax him at 6299-0693 or e-mail him at
slss@pacific.net.sg
 

Richard Tan Ming Kirk
Honorary Secretary-General
Singapore Life Saving Society

 

"Articles by courtesy of SPH - The Straits Times"

 

 

 

"What the public can do to prevent drownings"

Letter from Honorary Secretary General, Richard Tan Ming Kirk, published in the Straits Times, 19 March 2004

The Singapore Life Saving Society (SLSS) is saddened to learn that two more young lives were lost last Sunday ("Double drownings: Boy, 4, in country club; girl, 4, in condo"; ST March 16).

Children are naturally drawn to play in water, whether or not they are able to swim. Unfortunately, just because they are able to swim or stand in a swimming pool does not mean that they will not get into difficulties and drown.

In fact, there have been cases of drowning involving swimmers and even a few inches of water.

Studies have shown that supervision by lifeguards reduced drownings or near -drownings. In fact, one US study indicated that more than three quarters of deaths by drowning at certain locations that had lifeguards occurred at times when those locations were unguarded.

While the SLSS urges the authorities and pool owners to have lifeguards on duty whenever swimming pools and other aquatic facilities are open for use, there are some things that individuals can do to help themselves, such as the following:

   - Learn water-survival and lifesaving skills and encourage everyone in the family to learn such skills.

   - Ensure that those using swimming pools and aquatic facilities are constantly supervised by a parent, guardian or some other person.

   - Urge the persons responsible for the operation of swimming pools at condominiums and clubs to employ lifeguards and install drowning-prevention and lifesaving aids.

   - Avoid swimming pools or swimming areas where there are no lifeguards on duty.

We would also encourage school principals and heads of other educational institutions to include water-survival  and lifesaving skills as part of their physical or general education programme. Such skills are very important and may mean the difference between life and death in an aquatic emergency.

Our society, a non-profit organisation, would be happy to assist interested persons or organisations with information and training on water safety, lifesaving, lifeguard training and other drowning prevention matters.

To contact us, call 6299-3660, fax 6299-0693 e-mail
slss@pacific.net.sg

 

Richard Tan Ming Kirk
Honorary Secretary-General
Singapore Life Saving Society

 

"Articles by courtesy of SPH - The Straits Times"

 

SLSS is a national member of The Royal life Saving Society and The International Life Saving Federation.