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Water Safety Overview - Q&A

Water safety and awareness 

Q. What does an emergency in, on or around the water look like?

Someone about to fall into or in the water with their head under the water showing distress.

Someone in water with their arm up yelling Help!

Someone face down in the water unconscious.

A boat or craft up turned with people in the water or not visible.

Q. What is the Water Safety code?

Be prepared. Learn water safety skills. Set rules for safe play in the water. Always use safe and correct equipment and know the weather and water conditions before you get in. 

Watch out for yourself and others. Always pay close attention to children you are supervising when in or near the water. Swim with others and in areas where lifeguards are present.

Be aware of dangers. Enter shallow and unknown water feet first and obey all safety signs and warning flags.

Know your limits. Challenge yourself within your physical limits and experience.

Q. Identify water risks around the home

Containers filled with water such as buckets, garden water features, creeks running at the bottom of the garden.


Children playing in, on or around water with no adult supervision.

Q. Identify water risks around the farm

Creeks, rivers, effluent ponds, drinking troughs, buckets with water, water tanks.

Q. Identify water risks around the pool

A pool which isn't fenced or doesn't have a closable gate. A spa pool or hot tub without a pool cover. Toys in the pool which means you can't see into the pool to see if someone is under the water.

Q. Identify risks at the beach

A rip. Identified by:

Discoloured or murky brown water caused by sand stirred up off the bottom

A smoother surface with much smaller waves, with waves breaking either side

Debris floating out to sea

A rippled look, when the water around is generally calm

Q. Identify risks at the river

Cold water 

Swift current – know how to get out down stream

Rocks in water, logs floating on or under the water

Q. Identify water risks at the lake

Cold water. Deep water. Bad weather approaching. Do you have time to reach the shore.

Not wearing a lifejacket when you're in a boat, kayak, Stand up paddle board or wind surfing. 

Q. Identify water risks swimming

Fatigue, getting tired when swimming where you can't stand up.

Q. Identify risks boating

Currents, bad weather, faulty equipment, capsizing, not wearing lifejackets. Having no form of communication.

Q. Identify water risks playing in the water

Rough play with friends where someone gets hurt and falls under the water.

Q. Who do you call for help and how?

Children never go into the water without an adult present. 

Signal for life guard help at a patrolled beach.

Call the police. Dial 111.

Q. What is hypothermia?

Hypothermia is a medical emergency that occurs when the body loses heat faster than it can produce heat causing dangerously low body temperature.

Avoid hypothermia by not going into cold water, or don't stay in cold water too long. Wear a good wetsuit,

Q. How do you identify hypothermia?

Uncontrollable shivering, confusion, blood drained from the face, arms and legs. Sleepiness, difficulty speaking. Stiff muscles. 

Q. What do you do to treat hypothermia?

Remove wet clothing and warm the person by wrapping them in dry clothing or blankets.

Water Safety Overview - Q&A


River Water Safety Quick Facts

Rivers are changeable and unpredictable particularly after heavy rainfall.

Check for hazards

Upstream, downstream and where you’re swimming. Rivers contain hidden dangers such as submerged objects and snags.

Keep looking.

Can you see the bottom? Is it deep enough for jumping or diving? Does the riverbed drop away close to the edge? Could you handle the current if you got swept away?

Establish an exit point.

It’s easy to get in but can you get out?

Notes for Teachers

River Features
Crossing Rivers
Supervision at Rivers
Survival Swimming
Strainer Danger
The Force of Water
Swimming in a River
Planning a Trip
Peer Pressure
Watch Be River Safe Video

Fact Sheets

River Features
Crossing Rivers
Supervision at Rivers
Survival Swimming
Swimming in a River
Diving or Jumping in Rivers
Planning a Trip


River Features
Crossing Rivers
Survival Swimming
Strainer Danger
The Force of Water
Swimming in a River
Diving or Jumping in Rivers
Peer Pressure



Keep baby safe with a Bathmat

The Plunket ‘water safety’ bathmat, is supported by Water Safety New Zealand. Bathmats are also delivered to whanau through iwi and Well Child Tamariki Ora providers. Bathmats are delivered to parents of infants five to seven months old. Approx 30,000 bathmats are delivered annually to whanau across the country.

Always use your Plunket Bathmat when bathing baby and be water safe.

Water Safety Around the Home

Your undivided attention when your child is around water could be the difference between fun, memorable, special bonding times - or tragedy.

Water Safety New Zealand is pleased to be partnering with Protector Aluminium promoting water safety around the home. Our messages are simple:

  • Make your home water safe by removing or isolating all potential water hazards
  • Pool fencing/barriers are mandatory and must be inspected every three years. Your local council will enforce this and will issue infringement and / or fix notices if required
  • Safety covers must be used as barriers for spa pools and hot tubs.

Protector Aluminium pool fencing is available at Bunnings. 


Safer Boating Code


Children learn these skills with Water Skills For Life

Click on each link to read about what's involved with each activity.

Water safety and awareness skills
  • Recognise an emergency for yourself or others. Know who to call for help and how
  • Know, understand and respect water safety rules, hazards and risks around the home, farm and around pools
  • Know, understand and respect water safety rules, hazards and risk in natural environments such as at the beach, offshore, river or lake.
  • Know, understand and respect water safety rules, hazards and risks for water activities such as swimming, water sports and boating
  • Know how and why t make safe decisions for yourself and others
  • Know how to recognise hypothermia and how to treat it
Getting in and out of the water
  • Get in and out of the water safely in any environment.
  • Perform this sequence with a buddy watching: check the depth of the water, check that the area is safe, jump into deep water, float on back for 1 minute to control breathing, return to edge and exit
Going under the water - Submersion
  • Get under water, open eyes and control breathing
  • Pick up an object from under the water
  • Dive from a horizontal position in the water and move underwater for a slow count to five
Floating on the water - Personal Buoyancy
  • Float, then regain feet
  • Control breathing while floating on back for at least 1 minute
  • Scull head-first and/or scull feet first for at least 3 minutes
  • Tread water for at least 3 minutes in deep water
  • Perform this sequence in deep water: correctly fit a lifejacket then tread water, scull, float or a mixture for 3 minutes while controlling breathing. Then return to edge and get out of the water
  • Perform this sequence for five minutes: signal for help while treading water, sculling, floating, or a mixture, and while controlling breathing
Rolling and turning in the water - Orientation
  • Horizontal rotation (front to back and back to front)
  • Horizontal to vertical rotation and vice versa (front or back to upright and return)
  • Vertical rotation (half rotation and full rotation) around the body’s vertical axis
What to do in an emergency - Safety of self and others
  • Float and signal for help with and without a flotation aid
  • Do a reach rescue and a throw rescue with a buddy
  • Perform this sequence: correctly fit a lifejacket, do a step entry into deep water, float in the H.E.L.P. position, then with a couple of buddies or a group form a huddle, return to edge and get out
Moving through the water - Propulsion
  • Move 15m non-stop, using any form of propulsion
  • Move through the water environments of all kinds (currents, waves, depth – in situ or simulated)
  • Move 50m and/or 3 minutes non-stop, confidently and competently – using any form of propulsion on their side, front, back, or a mixture
  • Move 100m and/or 5 minutes non-stop, confidently and competently – using any form of propulsion on their side, front, back, or a mixture


Click here for the directory to contact a Water Skills for Life instructor.
Click here for Database User Guide and School Resources


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