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Friday, May 3, 2013

Open Water Swimming Safety In The Netherlands

No two individuals have a greater influence on their country's open water swimming culture than Richard Broer and Niek Kloots (shown on left).

The long-time Dutch open water enthusiasts have served in every possible role within the open water swimming community in the Netherlands. And over the years, they have collectively pushed for and implemented a number of safety protocols, procedures and policies with the athletes always in mind.

Broer and Kloots dictate and execute the following procedures when designing and conducting an open water swim in the Netherlands:

1. All events have a safety plan that is used to obtain a permit from the local government.
2. No event is held in unsafe waters due to chemical or bacterial pollution.
3. No event longer than 1 km is swum in water colder than 15ºC (59ºF) and all distances at 16ºC (60.8ºF). Note: in the Netherlands, there are no open water events on record that are conducted in water warmer than 26ºC (78.8ºF).
4. There are a sufficient number of certified life savers who are affiliated with the national life savers federation or sometimes the local fire department.
5. There is adequate communication devices (e.g., radios).
6. Referees and judges must not be in the same boats with the life savers.
7. There must be a first aid team that is affiliated with national Red Cross on site during a race.
8. No more than 4 heats are in the water at the same time. Note: races in the Netherlands are no longer than 150 participants.
9. There must be one fast motorboat for the life savers and a safety diver available.
10. Life savers must use their own equipment that is certified by the national federation as well as their own communication devices.
11. All security is under one command who is usually the safety officer who is also a life saver.
12. The security officer has a direct contact (via telephone) with the Fire Department (using 911) for extensive search and rescue (e.g., on the 22 km IJsselmeer swim marathon, a Navy helicopter is on stand-by).
13. The referee is in direct contact via radio (if needed, via security officer) with all safety officials including the Red Cross, life savers, and divers.
14. There are judges positioned in separate boats at the turning points.
15. Judges and especially life savers are on the lookout for swimmers who leave the course during the swim for any reason.
16. There must be a separate check-in area where only the swimmers and judges are allowed. The officials check on name and number and readability of numbers where silicone swim caps with printed numbers by Speedo are used at all times. Note: no numbers are written on the swim caps as the numbers blur and fade, and do not read well in the sun.
17. Swimmers who swim frequently in sanctioned races possess their own swim cap. Swimmers who participate infrequently borrow a swim cap from the event organizers. Note: Usually these borrowed caps are cotton, like old water polo caps or inexpensive latex caps.
18. There is only one point of entrance to the water via the check-in area. There is also only one point of exit of the water via the check-out area.
19. After check-in, no additional swimmers or any other individuals are allowed into the competition area. Note: after the swimmers check in, the swimmers are under the command of the judges.
20. After check-in, the number of athletes is communicated to all officials including the turn judges and finish judges as well as the check out staff.
21. After check-in, the swimmers are instructed to only leave the water via a life saver's boat or at the side of the course but only after informing the life savers or judges.
22. At all turns, the swim caps of the swimmers are noted by the turn judges.
23. If it is a very long course, the numbers of the swimmers is noted at the halfway mark.
24. The number of swimmers who pass at every turn or important mark is counted and communicated to the referee and the security officer.
25. At the finish, the numbers of the swimmers are called out and an official notes all numbers.
26. Swimmers must leaving the water only via the check-out area where their numbers are confirmed one last time.
27. The life savers take the rescued swimmers or swimmers who did not finish at the designated check-out area.

"This way, we know exactly where all the swimmers are," explains Broer. "Security is virtually waterproof. In our county, we have a long tradition and vast experience in these matters."

Without a doubt.

Copyright © 2013 by Open Water Swimming

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