Outback Survival: Safety Around Water

Each year in Australia more people lose their lives in inland rivers, lakes, dams and creeks than at beaches.

Each year in Australia more people lose their lives in inland rivers, lakes, dams and creeks than at beaches. 

And despite only a fraction of the population living in remote or rural areas, these regions are responsible for one third of all drownings nationwide. 

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These surprising figures highlight the dangers that water can pose – particularly in a region that most people wouldn’t associate with water or drowning. 

When travelling to a remote area, it’s important that you treat the water with respect. One in three victims of drowning are visitors to the location, and 62% of inland drownings involve either swimming or boating. 

Who's at risk

Sadly, survival rates for drowning and near drowning decrease the further you are from a major town or city, as there are fewer people around to help you, and emergency services can’t respond as quickly.

That’s why it’s vital to take care around water, whether it’s a gentle river, secluded beach, flooded road, or hidden rock pool.

Who’s at risk of drowning? 

Generally males aged between 25-34 (and who have consumed alcohol) are the highest-risk category. Overall, about 80% of all drowning victims are men – and in inland areas, over 40% of these involve alcohol. 

Simple, everyday pastimes like fishing on a creek with friends and drinking a few beers might seem harmless, however these are exactly the sort of situations where overlooking the dangers can have the most dire consequences. 

Drowning and near-drowning are also a leading cause of injury in children, especially toddlers and those unable to swim yet.

Be prepared 

Before engaging in any activity in or on the water, make sure you are prepared. 

  • Wear a life jacket and make sure it is properly fitted and maintained
  • Obey any signs you see, especially ones with warnings
  • If using a boat or other watercraft, make sure it is safe and seaworthy
  • When going out to sea or to a remote area, take an EPIRB or personal beacon

Beware of risks and dangers

  • Never swim alone
  • Never enter floodwater, even if it looks calm or shallow
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs around water
  • Don't jump or dive into water (even clear water). It may be shallower than you think, or there may be submerged hazards like rocks or logs
  • Remind yourself of what may be in the water, like crocodiles, sharks or jellyfish

First aid and CPR 

If you or a travelling companion encounter trouble, call 000 immediately and perform first aid or CPR if necessary.

Sources: Royal Life Saving NDR 2017