One never knows the value of certain capabilities until one is faced with the situation in which the skill would apply.
Consider CPR (cardio pulmonary resuscitation) and First Aid. The importance of learning these skills has been repeated many times in various quarters. We’ve heard such messages, especially from The Red Cross and the St John Ambulance Association, both of which offer courses in first response procedures.
We have also heard – if not from local sources then from those based abroad – that knowledge of first aid could mean the difference between life and death. But how many in our twin-island state can boast knowledge of CPR and First Aid?
How many even know someone who’s had the training? It would be in one’s best interest to learn because you never know when you’ll have to be the first to respond to an emergency medical situation.
Food for thought, but not the main topic of this editorial, we shall delve into another subject about which similar questions could be asked – aquatic safety. The ability to swim is another skill, which could also determine the difference between life and death.
Last year, 435 of the world’s leading lifesaving and drowning experts converged in Danang, Veitnam for a World Conference on drowning prevention. Its purpose was to “focus world attention on the global burden of drowning and especially on the epidemic of drowning deaths in developing countries,” the conference website noted.
Such an event is of great relevance to Antigua and Barbuda as both islands are surrounded by water. Our nation boasts a beach for each day of the year. And residents make great use of these beautiful beaches come holidays like Easter Monday, Labour Day and Whit Monday. Many flock to the sea for picnics and sea baths and unfortunately some fail to come out of the water alive.
In the past three months or so, there have been three deaths apparently by drowning. The most recent two occurred in the last couple of weeks.
On April 10, 18-year-old Kelton “Gizzle” Jules, who went missing in Barbuda during a camping trip was later found dead in shallow waters at Governor’s Bay.
Two months later, on June 7, 17-year-old Island Academy fifth form student Everette Tonge drowned off Windward Bay. Just over a week later, 18-year-old O’Riley Messiah is fished from the waters of Pigeon Point.
Clearly, these incidents are not isolated. Regardless of whether the victims were able to swim, their cases highlight not only the need to master the skill of swimming, but the need for general aquatic safety.
Certification of swimming proficiency is required within some professions such as the airline industry. However, it is incumbent on the rest of the population to seek to become aquatically proficient so that when faced with a situation of having to sink or swim, the latter would be the only option.
The best time to learn to swim is at a young age. Cobham Swim School in the UK suggests that, “learning or improving one’s ability to swim should be given the highest priority by parents when organising extra-curricular activities for their children.”
That’s hardly a challenge here in Antigua & Barbuda, with several places offering instruction in swimming.
It’s never too late to learn to master the art of swimming. After all, if you ever have to save a life, it might just be your own.