More lifeguards needed to boost safety at beaches and pools in the UAE, says expert

Lifeguard training boss calls for numbers to be bolstered

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - MARCH 19, 2018. A lifeguards at the swimming competition of IX MENA Special Olympic games held at NYU Abu Dhabi.

(Photo: Reem Mohammed/ The National)

Reporter:  Ramola Talwat
Section:  NA + SP

The number of lifeguards on duty at beaches and public swimming pools in the UAE should be at least doubled, says an industry expert.

Luke Cunningham, managing director of Blue Guard Middle East, which provides first aid and lifeguard training courses, says many venues only have one lifeguard on staff – when they should have “two or three".

Mr Cunningham says lifeguards should have more support from their employers to make the UAE "a safer place".

The safety message comes after two drownings in the UAE last month.

A nine-year-old boy drowned off the coast of Ras Al Khaimah while out with his family, while another drowned in a Sharjah swimming pool after sneaking out of the family flat.

"Many venues only have one lifeguard on duty where two or three are needed. All the candidates we have trained possess the correct skills to safely lifeguard but they need the support and guidance of their management to correctly perform their work," said Mr Cunningham.

"I believe it is important not only to look at the lifeguards themselves but their management. Lifeguards should be provided with regular weekly training updates to keep their skills sharp and venues should complete risk assessments to ensure there are actually enough lifeguards on duty," said Mr Cunningham.

"If all management understood the day-to-day duties of lifeguarding, I believe the UAE would be a safer place."

Mr Cunningham has welcomed the move to employ lifeguards on public beaches and says well-trained staff and the continued education of the public can help to save lives.

“I believe there are a lot of lifeguards in the UAE and it was a great initiative from Dubai Municipality to deploy lifeguards on the public beaches, it is a fantastic first step to making the beaches a safer place,” he said.


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"Education is very important, everyone needs to have respect for the water and understand the dangers involved with entering the water," he said.

"Only swim at a beach or swimming pool that has lifeguards on duty and if you have a pool at your home, make sure you never leave children unattended."

Drowning is the third leading cause of unintentional injury death worldwide, accounting for 7 per cent of all injury-related deaths according to the World Health Organisation  

Every year, about 400,000 people globally die as a result of drowning.

Police are also calling for more to be done to prevent drownings and have urged parents to play their part, too – by keeping their eyes on their children and off their phone screens.

Abu Dhabi Police have sent out a warning that parents who leave children unattended while swimming at pools or the beach are putting their lives at risk.

Police say adults should constantly monitor their children when they are in the water.

“Negligence is considered a major cause of child drowning incidents,” said Abu Dhabi Police.

“Families should not be busy with their smart devices while children are swimming, and should avoid filling the swimming pool to the maximum, especially when it is being used by children.

“Families are required to keep an eye on the children and only allow them to swim after following preventive measures and in the presence of a swimming and rescue qualified person.”

Rebecca Carter, regional manager of Absolute Swimming Academy in Dubai, believes getting children comfortable in the waters from an early age is also key and says swimming lessons should be a part of the curriculum at all schools.

“I can not express the importance of children learning to swim at an early age, it is a vital skill that needs to be taught,” she said.

"It is great to see that certain schools offer swimming as part of their curriculum, however not all schools do offer this and it needs to change.

"Children should be learning to swim, they are capable of developing the skills from as early as three years old and with the amount of pools that are accessible to children this should be a parent's No 1 priority."

Ms Carter said that child should never be left alone in a pool without an adult actively watching them.

“There definitely should be more done to prevent the unfortunate rise of drownings. Drownings are happening due to children being left unattended. Even if you think your child can swim there is still a risk when leaving them alone,” she said.