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Summer season safety tips - Cape Town

Although it's nearly halfway through the festive season, thousands of holiday makers are still flocking to Cape Town for their annual holiday. While this is a unique opportunity to relax and have fun on the mother city’s mountains, beaches and pools, it’s also a time when accidents – however unlikely – can happen, so make sure that you know what to do if you need help.

“Disasters often strike when they’re least expected,” says Wilfred Solomons-Johannes of the City of Cape Town’s Disaster Risk Management Centre. “Many people use the festive season as an opportunity to engage in leisure and recreational activities, some of which come with risks.”

He advises residents and visitors to bear in mind the following safety measures to make the most of their year-end break:

Safety at sea

*Every person on a boat must wear a life jacket
*Any boat must have the required safety equipment, including emergency flares
*Be aware of weather conditions and how fast they can change
*Don't abuse alcohol while at sea

Safety on the mountain

*Never walk or climb on your own. If you’re hiking with children, keep them in your sight at all times
*Always inform a friend or family member where you are going and when you should be back.
*Stay on marked routes
*Always take along warm clothing, food and liquids
*Do not dive into pools if you do not know how deep they are
*Avoid strenuous exercise on extremely hot days. Don’t hike too quickly. Pace yourself so that you have enough energy for the home stretch
*Start your hike early so that you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy it. Don’t set off too late in the afternoon
*Check the weather forecast before heading out. Besides being cooler, it’s usually windier the higher you walk/hike
*Take a map or guide book with you. Use the map to keep track of your progress so that you know where you are at all times
*Carry a first aid kit
*Take a cell phone with you, and use it to dial the City’s emergency services if you need help. The number is 021 480 7700

Safety on the beach

*Swim only where there are lifeguards and where signs indicate it is safe
*Make sure that lifeguards can see you when you are in the water. Don’t swim when lifeguards are off duty, such as at night
*Always swim between the red and yellow flags. These indicate safe, supervised swimming areas. Areas outside these flags might conceal dangerous currents and tides. Only swim in areas where other people are present
*If you find yourself in trouble, raise your arm to attract the lifeguards’ attention. Do not panic, as this will tire you
*If you see someone in trouble in the sea, alert the lifesavers or find help. Don’t put your own life in danger as well
*Ensure that you protect your skin from too much exposure to the sun. Too much sun can negatively affect your immune system and can cause sunstroke. Stay indoors during the hottest time of the day (11:00 – 15:00), and cover yourself with sunscreen, hats and other attire (no matter what your skin color. People with darker skins are just as vulnerable as their lighter skinned counterparts)
*Don’t drink and swim, or drive motor boats. Alcohol dulls the senses, slows the reactions and can cause irresponsible behavior
*Know how to do CPR, or at the very least, how to blow air into another person’s lungs until help arrives. This is 021 480 7700 (dialed from a cell phone), or 107 (dialed from a Telkom phone)

Safety on the roads

*Be courteous on the roads. Treat other drivers as you would like to be treated in turn
*Never drink and drive. Appoint a designated driver who will not use alcohol
*Use your seatbelt at all times
*Allow pedestrians right of way
*Secure toddlers in baby or child seats
*Know your route, so that you know what roads and turnoffs to anticipate. Rather miss a turnoff than swerve at the last minute
*Get a proper night’s rest before starting on a long journey. Driver fatigue is a major cause of road accidents
*Stay alert. Switch the radio on, or talk to your passenger/s
*Never leave a child or pet alone in a car. This can lead to heat stroke and death
*Ensure that your vehicle is roadworthy. The City’s Traffic Services is offering free basic vehicle safety checks at the following traffic centres: Gallows Hill, Bellville, Kuils River, Brackenfell, *Hillstar, Goodwood and Durbanville, between 10:00 to 14:00 each working day until 8 January 2010

Safety from crime

*Only go to places where you feel comfortable and safe
*Seek safety in numbers - but know the people you are with
*Tell a family member/friend where you’re going to. Someone should always know where you are
*Avoid talking to strangers, especially at hotspots such as ATMs
*Never give your card or PIN to anyone, for any reason
*Do not engage with people who ask for help at ATMs
*Use your body and hand as a shield to make sure nobody sees your account details/cash
*Don’t walk around with large amounts of cash on you
*Avoid congested streets – these are prime hot spots for pick-pockets
*Walk in well lit, busy streets
*Keep your valuables, such as cell phones and jewellery out of the public eye. Put small items in a safety deposit box
*Engrave your driver’s licence number on the backs of stereos, televisions etc. This will help identify stolen items
*Keep a few lights on when you’re not at home. If you have external lights, point them away from the house.
*Avoid leaving windows open. Pack ladders and tools away before you go out

Safety around swimming pools and rivers

*Most near-drownings occur around the home, and not at the beach
*Never leave children alone at a pool, even for a moment. Swimming classes and inflatable armbands can never replace adult supervision. A child can drown in the time it takes to answer a telephone or open the front door
*Regulate diving. Neck and spinal injuries often result because adults/children miscalculate the depth of the pool, or cannot see the bottom of a river
*Supervise older children around the pool as well. Just because your child can swim well doesn’t mean he or she is immune from diving accidents, or dangerous games
*Social gatherings can detract attention from children who are close to a pool. Designate a responsible adult to watch over them
*Inflatable swimming aids are not substitutes for approved life vests and can give children a false sense of security
*Whenever infants or toddlers are in or around water, an adult should be within arm’s length

Safety whilst socializing

*Alcohol consumption, dehydration, drink-spiking and drug overdoses are all potentially fatal.
*Know when to say ‘No’.
*Enjoy yourself, but take things easy
*Friends should keep an eye out for each other.
*Should things get out of hand, take charge and show you care about your friends.
*Avoid binge drinking
*Drink plenty of water
*Never leave your drinks unattended
*Don’t mix alcohol and medication

Safety in the fire season

*No fires are allowed anywhere along the Peninsula mountain chain except in specifically demarcated areas.
*Do not discard burning cigarettes from your vehicle, as this is one of the major causes of fires. *Use your vehicle ashtray for this purpose
*Ensure that your braai fire is extinguished completely before leaving. Use water to extinguish any smoldering remains
*What to do in an emergency
*Phone 107 from a land line or 021 480 7700 from a cell phone should you have a life- or property threatening emergency. The City of Cape Town is well prepared to handle any emergency, 24 hours, seven days a week.

Source: www.capetown.gov.za