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Why do more New Zealanders drown than Australians? The 4R's of rescue

'Drowning - why more New Zealanders?'    .

Why do more New Zealanders drown than Australians? Going boating or sailing puts people right in the right place to drown if circumstances collide to make a dangerous situation. New Zealand is in the unenviable position of having the third highest drowning rate of the developed countries (3.3 per 100 000), only less per capita than Brazil and Finland (ILSF 2007 World Drowning Report), a rate twice that of Australia (1.5 per 100 000).

Drowning is the third highest cause of unintentional injury death in New Zealand for all age groups, but second highest for the under-25 age group.

To put it more graphically, Dr Kevin Moran, Chairman of WaterSafety Auckland, recently told the NZ Herald that between 1980 and last year, 81 people drowned in New Zealand while trying to rescue others. Of these, most (80 per cent) were male. Maori (33 per cent) and Pasifika (12 per cent) people were over-represented.

Last month a man and his nephew drowned off the Hawkes Bay coast while trying to save a young girl who made her own way to shore. What was supposed to be a weekend of family celebrations became a double tragedy.

The Drowning Prevention Strategy is in place with New Zealand's Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) as the lead agency.

In Australia, Queenslanders Dr John Pearn and Bernard Franklin have analysed the loss of life while trying to rescue children in their study, 'Drowning for Love. The Aquatic Victim Instead of Rescuer Syndrome.'

However, there is a 'now' solution for reducing the number of drowning deaths in both countries - the Four R's.

Dr Moran said, 'Fewer people would be lost if they understood the Four Rs of bystander rescue - Recognise, Respond, Rescue and Revive.'

Using the Four Rs:

• Recognise - a would-be rescuer would assess victim distress, the urgency and the dangers in a rescue attempt and, importantly, look for a flotation device.

• Respond - the first priority is to stop the drowning process by providing flotation to the victim while still assessing the dangers of a rescue and the urgency. This is especially true if the victim cannot be immediately removed from the water. It is at this stage that the bystander should send for help.

• Rescue - a land- or craft-based rescue minimises risk for the rescuer but, if a water-based rescue is necessary, a non-contact rescue using flotation is the safest method.

• Revive - this phase covers the possible need for CPR and other medical assistance as required.

Dr Moran told the Herald that New Zealanders struggle to understand the areas of Recognise and Respond.

A nationwide water safety survey of New Zealand youth found 35 per cent considered they had no rescue ability, and 59 per cent expressed doubts about their ability to perform a deep-water rescue.

A recently published Auckland study of 415 people at last March's Pasifika Festival suggests many lack an understanding in water safety.

The findings provide evidence of questionable readiness to respond in a rescue role as a bystander confronted with a drowning emergency.

Despite a desire to respond in a rescuer role, many people may lack the physical competency and knowledge to safely attempt a rescue.

While it is hard to imagine not following your gut instincts and trying to rescue someone in need, especially a family member, would-be rescuers need to remember the four Rs of Recognise, Respond, Rescue and Revive if they are going to attempt a rescue safely.

by Watersafe Auckland/Sail-World Cruising


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11:18 PM Sun 8 Dec 2013GMT

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