Safety measures to consider when visiting a waterfall

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Two friends drown in Osubin waterfall on the 5th November this year. They had gone to visit the fall and have a good time possibly to release some stress.  Their clothes were later found at the shores of the waterfall. A search, including the pouring of libation by a priest in the community, proved futile.

Some days later divers were sent to the scene to retrieve their bodies. This could have happened to anyone present who tried swimming in the water. This type of situation puts all hikers and tourists who visit such attractions at risk. This is the latest in many series of deaths in waterfalls or rivers.

Two teenagers also drowned in the Volta River in the Eastern Region. Starrfm reported this story some time back. Their bodies were retrieved and deposited at the VRA Hospital mortuary by the Police and officials of the National Disaster Management Organization (NADMO)

In May this year, an unidentified dead body was retrieved from the Adomi bridge stretch of the Volta River. Also, in July, a 23-year-old also woman drowned in the same river. On November 8, 2021, an unidentified man also drowned in a river at Akyem Abekwase in Atewa West District.

According to WHO, drowning is a major public health problem worldwide. WHO estimates that 236 000 people died from drowning in 2019 making it the 3rd leading cause of unintentional injury death, accounting for 7% of all injury-related deaths. The injuries accounted for almost 8% of total global mortality.

Kasapa News also reported of the death a young man Jeremiah Bediako who drowned in the Boti Waterfalls. He visited the site with two female American tourists who were in Ghana for adventure. One of the divers said the gravitation force beneath the river and its dept made it dangerous for even experience divers.

Information gathered by the news outlet indicates that about 13 persons have drowned in similar fashion for the past five years.  Another gentleman also died in 2018 at the Trudu Waterfall in the Eastern Region of Ghana.  Trudu Waterfalls is one of the nicest waterfalls in the Eastern region but not well marketed with very little safety guidelines.

This was not the first time a drowning incident has been recorded in the Waterfalls. In 2017, we all remember that at least 18 people, mainly high school students, died at the Kintampo Falls. The lives of tourists are precious and must be protected. Following the Kintampo incidence, the then Minister for Tourism Culture and Creative Arts Catherine Abelema Afeku said a Legislative Instrument (LI) is needed to regulate activities of tourist site operators and ensure that the necessary safety measures are in place at these sites.

Speaking on Adom FM’s morning show ‘Dwaso Nsem’, the Minister, said for tourist sites in the country to be safe, certain measures must be put in place and she will ensure that these are done. “The LI will be specific to the management and revenue sharing strategies of tourist sites,” she said. I don’t know whether the LI has been passed and implemented. What remains a fact is that tourists are still dying at our waterfalls.

Until the right safety measure are put in place, tourists could also be aware of some basic safety measures that could help at least safe them. None of these people thought they were going to get hurt or die. Some had no clue they were doing anything dangerous. Some thought they had the necessary skills and experience to prevent anything bad from happening to them.

According to Kimberly Bailey, waterfalls are dangerous, but there’s nothing inherently hazardous about them. A waterfall doesn’t reach out and grab people and fling them over the top. The reason people get hurt at waterfalls is because they put themselves in dangerous situations. Nearly all waterfall accidents could be avoided by understanding the potential dangers and taking them seriously.

David Casey, with Pisgah National Forest, sums up safety advice by stating that we should all “have situational awareness.” In other words, slow down, look around, pay attention, think!

Often, accidents occur because people don’t fully realize the hazards. The following safety practices could be of help to anyone visiting a waterfall.

Stay on safe ground  

Never climb waterfalls or go anywhere near the top. The waterfall atmosphere can cause even experienced hikers to lose full control of their senses and fall. Some people think a rope will protect them, but this can create a false sense of security that leads to disaster. You must have the right kind of rope and safety harness and have the proper training in how to use them.

Stay in safe water

Everyone likes to play in the water, but you should be extremely careful in the waterfall environment. Never jump into plunge pools. Logs or rocks may be hidden under the surface, and the sudden impact of the extremely cold water can cause temporary paralysis that could lead to drowning. Don’t swim anywhere near where the waterfall hits the plunge pool. Churning currents called hydraulics can trap you under water. River currents everywhere are stronger than you may realize. Never enter the water anywhere near the top of a waterfall. Be extremely careful when crossing streams if the water is more than a few inches deep.

Stay off slick surfaces

Rocks at waterfalls and in streams can be extremely slippery, especially wet ones. No shoe will provide a sure grip if the rocks are covered in silt or algae.

Stay on the trail

The moment you leave the trail, the chances for getting hurt or becoming lost increase significantly. If you do hike off trail, you should go slowly, watch every step, and wear ankle-supporting shoes. The next step you take could be on a leaf-covered rock that falls out under your foot and causes a fall. In addition to the safety issues, hiking off trail introduces the likelihood of trampling vegetation.

Protect your feet

Flip flops are dangerous. They provide no protection and can cause falls or twisted ankles from walking on uneven terrain. Sandals are fine for wading in the pool, but they don’t provide adequate protection for hiking on most trails. Sneakers are okay for hiking on graded trails, but if you have weak ankles you shouldn’t wear them on rocky or rooty trails. The best foot protection comes from hiking shoes that provide full ankle support.

Be comfortable

Bring rain gear and extra clothing. If you accidently fall in the creek you could become hypothermic, even in mild weather. Rain gear is a necessity for any hike that isn’t close to the road. Mountain weather can change quickly. It’s a good idea to pack an extra pair of socks in case your feet get wet. It’s also a good idea to pack an emergency blanket, even for a day hike. If you get wet, you could quickly become chilled. Wrapping up in an emergency blanket while you’re hiking back could prevent you from becoming hypothermic.

Don’t count on your phone

Phone service is very limited at many of our waterfalls. If you’re in trouble, it could be hours before help arrives. Tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to be back.

Watch the wind

Avoid hiking on very windy days. Trees could fall as well as branches and cause you injury or death.

Watch the rain

Flash flooding can occur, but heavy rains cause other safety issues that you may not think about. That stream you crossed easily on the hike to the waterfall may be impassible on the way back, leaving you stranded. Landslides are another concern. You should avoid hiking trails along steep slopes during heavy rains when the soil is saturated.

Stay hydrated

Bring plenty of water and drink before you get thirsty. Do not drink water from streams unless you filter or purify it.

 Watch the selfies

An alarming number of people die each year while taking selfies and not paying attention to where they’re standing. Before you take the shot, find a safe place to pose and then don’t move again while you’re looking at your phone. If you need a better angle, lower the phone and watch where you’re stepping.

Watch the kids

Don’t let children run around unsupervised. They don’t understand how to be safe and if they get themselves into an unsafe situation, you could also do something unsafe in the rush to protect them.

Avoid alcohol

Don’t do anything that can impair your judgement in the slightest. Even a single drink could dull your senses and cause a mishap.

Philip Gebu is a Tourism Lecturer. He is the C.E.O of FoReal Destinations Ltd, a Tourism Destinations Management and Marketing Company based in Ghana and with partners in many other countries. Please contact Philip with your comments and suggestions. Write to [email protected] / [email protected]. Visit our website at www.forealdestinations.com or call or WhatsApp +233(0)244295901/0264295901.Visist our social media sites Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: FoReal Destinations

 

 

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