Lifeguards take novel approach to safety and story-time

Published on 01 June 2020

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Thousands of Lake Macquarie students will surf online to learn water safety this winter thanks to an innovative Council lifeguards education program.

Lake Macquarie City Council’s professional lifeguards usually visit more than 65 schools during the cooler months to teach primary school children about beach and water safety, but Manager Leisure Services Brad Sutton said that wasn’t possible in 2020 due to COVID-19.

“School is back in, but face-to-face visits by our lifeguards is not possible in the current situation,” Mr Sutton said.

“We knew the need would still be out there to teach students water safety, first aid and other vital skills covered in our A Matter of Seconds program, so we’ve moved very quickly to shift the training to an online format.”

A series of videos produced in-house and filmed at Redhead Beach and Caves Beach in recent weeks covers all the topics of the traditional A Matter of Seconds syllabus, with modules aimed at students in kindergarten, Year 3 and Year 6.

CPR basics, beach flags and signs, pool and boat safety, identifying and escaping rips, and providing first aid to someone suffering an asthma attack or allergic reaction are among the topics covered.

The kindergarten video features lifeguard mascot, Larry the Lifeguard.

Council and Lake Mac Libraries have also launched Books at the Beach, an online story-time series where lifeguards read beach-themed books for kids and their parents.

Mr Sutton said that while none of the lifeguards were likely to be swapping their day job for a gig on Play School any time soon, it was great to see the team respond with such enthusiasm to a difficult situation.

 “These are challenging times, but we’re doing what we can to keep our community enriched and educated,” Mr Sutton said.

“Responding so quickly like this ensures our long-standing, successful partnership with local schools continues in 2020.”

The Books at the Beach series kicks off with Senior Lifeguard Danny Napper reading the imaginative and colourful Silver Sea, by Australian authors Alison Lester and Jane Godwin.

Mr Sutton said the A Matter of Seconds education videos and story-time series were aimed at local children, but would be equally beneficial further afield.

“The beach safety videos in particular have a lot of relevance to people across the Hunter Region and elsewhere who visit our coast during summer,” he said.

More than 65 Lake Macquarie primary schools involved in the A Matter of Seconds safety program will be invited to include the new video series as part of its Term 2 curriculum.

The A Matter of Seconds videos are available at lakemac.com.au/a-matter-of-seconds.