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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Keeping Track Of Thousands In The Open Water

With 8,700+ swimmers participating in the seeding events and another 17,000+ swimmers participating in the Midmar Mile, its organizers have a lot of safety, logistics, record-keeping and operations to manage.

Inspector Jack Haskins, a long-time K9 Search and Rescue officer with the South African Police Service, has played a major role for many years in implementing the safety protocols and procedures behind the scenes at the Midmar Mile in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.

Inspector Haskins has been with the South African Police Service Dog Unit, working hand-in-hand with Wayne Riddin at the Midmar Mile. He and his dogs (Udaine, a Belgian Shepherd, and Butch, a black Labrador cross pointer) are trusted with maintaining a lookout for individuals who are in distress. "This year, we added pontoons along the course so we can have lookouts for swimmers as well as a place for people to rest if they are tired or feel anxious," said Wayne.

"When a person starts to drown, their body shuts down and decomposition begins almost immediately," explains Inspector Haskins. "Fluids from their body float to the surface of the water." It is these fluids that his dog recognizes that helps locate bodies in his line of work with the South African Police Service. He offers a number of pre-race safety tips for the thousands who gather for the annual Midmar Mile:

1. Train well in advance of the event.
2. Do not only train in a swimming pool, but also in the open water.
3. Compete in other open water events in order to get used to other swimmers around you.
4. Train in all weather conditions.
5. Take care at the start entering the water with so many competitors around you.
6. If you experience difficulty in the water, raise your hand to signal help.
7. If you are in serious trouble, attract the attention of other swimmers by keeping your hand in the air.
8. If you are a competitor and see another swimmer in distress, call the nearest lifeguard.
9. After you finish, return to your family and not the nearest pub for an after-swim party.
10. Do not party the night before.
11. Do not swim under the influence of alcohol.

Copyright © 2012 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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