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The Swedish summer causes many people to long for splendid swimming in both the sea and lakes. However, it occasionally does happen that accidents occur. Sjöfartsverket, the Swedish Maritime Administration, is the responsible public authority for the central government’s air-sea search & rescue. So as to avoid accidents in connection with swimming or otherwise being in the water, here are simple safety rules and advice to follow.

Good advice for anyone who swims with children:

  • Maintain constant supervision of your children. Young children need to always have an adult in their immediate vicinity when they are playing in or near the water. Older siblings should not be given the sole responsibility to keep track of younger siblings.
  • Avoid using your mobile phone while on the beach supervising children.
  • If there are several adults in your group, it can be a good idea for one person at a time to have the supervising responsibility, so that the others will have the opportunity to relax as well.
  • When your children who do not know how to swim are on the docks or piers, or in deeper water, they need to wear a collared lifejacket. The lifejacket with a collar will turn the child right side up in the water so that their face is above the water’s surface.
  • Older children and capable swimmers do better themselves in the water. However you still need to maintain close supervision of the child. Things can happen very quickly if something takes place in the water where the child becomes freighted and loses control.

Some useful advice for adult swimmers:

  • Preferably swim in the company of another person; not alone. However if you do swim alone, tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back.
  • Go out from the shoreline and then swim back in, or alongside the shore, not straight out. That way if you encounter a problem the way back won’t be that long.
  • Do not overestimate your swimming capabilities. Your swimming skills can deteriorate over time if not regularly used, so test it regularly.
  • Keep in mind that it is more difficult to swim in the sea and a lake than in a swimming pool. Waves and currents make it difficult to swim and one gets tired faster.
  • Do not go swimming if you have been drinking alcohol. Alcohol degrades both judgment and physical ability.
  • If you are swimming at a larger swimming area, before swimming look to see where the nearest life-saving equipment is located. 

Very cold water requires more caution

A number of drowning accidents occur in the early summer, when the water has not yet become warmed up.  If you nevertheless want to swim early in the season, avoid fully immersing your head. Cold water adversely affects breathing.  The brain becomes filled with stimuli from the skin which causes breathing to increase significantly, and it may even lead to breathing involuntarily, even if you have your head under the water.

The important role of a personal flotation device

Even for adults who can swim, an accident can occur and you can slip and injure yourself and end up in the water. In such an instance, you most likely will need some assistance to help to float, so to avoid the risk of drowning. Also when there are a lot of waves, it becomes difficult to stay afloat for a long period of time even if you are an experienced swimmer. For the floatation equipment to be of good use, you need to choose the proper type of floatation device. The level of swimming skills and the one’s comfort level in water influences the choice. Perhaps a lifejacket with a collar might be needed, not simply a life vest.

Lifejacket with a collar (räddningsväst) or life vest (flytväst) – what is the difference?

Personal flotation devices are of many different types; two of the most common are lifejackets with a collar and simple life vests.

  • The lifejacket with a collar turns you right side up in the water so that your face will be above the surface of the water. This will be of great help in the event you become unconscious and cannot turn right side up yourself.
  • A float garment or buoyancy aid, sailing vest or flotation suit is not as secure, however it has the advantage of being easy to use.
  • There are self-inflatable life vests that both turn you right side up in the water and provide great freedom of movement.

When choosing a life vest, take into account swimming skills, the area it will be used in, and your experience and familiarity with the water. And choose the proper size for right now – don’t buy a life vest expecting to grow into it. First and foremost, a lifejacket with a collar or a life vest is chosen based on the user’s weight, however the fit is also equally important. If you weigh 75 kg but fit better in a vest rated for someone who is 50-70 kg, then this is the one to choose. It should feel comfortable and not be able to go up over your head if you fall into the water. If the vest is too large, the buoyancy will end up in a misplaced position and the floating position will not be correct.  A flotation device that keeps you buoyant should be sufficient. No matter what model you choose, be sure to buy a life jacket or vest that is CE marked, indicating conformity with health, safety, and environmental protection standards.

The Swedish Maritime Administration’s responsibilities associated with air-sea search & rescue

The Swedish Maritime Administration is responsible for the efforts and operations when someone is or is feared to be in distress at sea. This responsibility encompasses Swedish territorial waters including our large lakes, Vänern, Vättern and Mälaren, however excludes the port areas.The Swedish Maritime Administration’s national Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) is staffed 24/7 and is responsible for receiving alarms and leads as well as coordinates efforts with sea and air rescue. The Joint Rescue Coordination Centre is based in Gothenburg.

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