4 May 2023
By Mary Bermingham
As the bathing season approaches, Cork County Council has launched a new virtual reality educational initiative aimed at raising awareness of the dangers of rip currents in our waters. Developed in partnership other Local Authorities, Water Safety Ireland and The Coast Guard, it is designed to give the public a “felt experience” of being caught in a rip current offshore.
The virtual reality experience will be used to educate communities on how to recognise a rip current, keep safe while open water swimming, plan your swim and practice self-care afterward.
As the season for water activities draws near, the services are appealing to the public to educate themselves around the dangers of rip currents and how to stay safe while open water swimming.
Welcoming the initiative, Mayor of the County of Cork, Cllr. Danny Collins said, “We would appeal to all to choose a lifeguarded beach if you are going for a swim this summer. Warm air temperature does not mean that the water is warm, it is still too cold for extended swims and doing so places you at risk of hypothermia. Let’s all continue to work together to keep as safe as possible. Above all please supervise children around water and be safe.”
Roger Sweeney, Water Safety Ireland, emphasised the importance of the initiative, stating, “Rip currents are one of the most common causes of aquatic accidents at our coastline. Bathers regularly underestimate the risk of being caught in a rip current and overestimate their ability to swim safely back to shore. This VR learning experience will educate children about those specific dangers and the actions they can take to survive. This innovative educational experience will help to improve water safety behaviours in young people and reduce water-related accidents, injuries, and deaths.”
John Draper, Divisional Controller at Valentia Coast Guard highlighted, “The Irish Coast Guard often respond to incidents involving swimmers caught in rip currents where they find themselves unable to swim safely ashore. Sadly, the outcome from some of these incidents can be fatal. This educational video is another commendable educational tool in the pursuit of enhanced water safety awareness for the public. It is always recommended to swim in areas where there is a lifeguard presence and bathers should take notice where there are notices regarding rip tides or strong currents. If you do see someone in difficulty, do not hesitate, ring 112 or 999 and ask for the Coast Guard.”
The initiative is part of Cork County Council’s ongoing efforts to promote water safety. The virtual reality educational experience will visit educational events, schools, swimming pools and beaches over the coming months. Other Local Authorities who were associated with the initiative include Westmeath County Council, Sligo County Council, Mayo County Council, Limerick City & County Council, Clare County Council, Dunlaoighre-Rathdown County Council, Fingal County Council, Meath County Council, Kildare County Council, Laois County Council and Tipperary County Council.