Caroline Casey, Cork County Council; Clare McGrath and Roger Sweeney, Water Safety Ireland; Jim O’Callaghan, Beach Lifeguard; Joanne Walsh, Water Safety Ireland; Cllr Danny Collins, Mayor of Cork; and Ciara Gleeson, Water Safety Ireland test the new virtual reality initiative. Photo: Brian Lougheed

VR simulates rip current dangers

A new virtual reality initiative which simulates how it feels to be caught in a dangerous rip current has been launched by Cork County Council.

Developed in partnership with Water Safety Ireland and The Coast Guard, it is designed to give the public a "felt experience" of being caught in a rip current offshore.

The virtual reality experience will be used to educate communities on how to recognise a rip current, keep safe while open water swimming, plan your swim and practice self-care afterward. As the season for water activities draws near, the services are strongly urging to the public to educate themselves around the dangers of rip currents and how to stay safe while open water swimming.

Roger Sweeney, Water Safety Ireland, emphasised the importance of the initiative: “Rip currents are one of the most common causes of aquatic accidents at our coastline. Bathers regularly underestimate the risk of being caught in a rip current and overestimate their ability to swim safely back to shore. This VR learning experience will educate children about those specific dangers and the actions they can take to survive.”

John Draper, Divisional Controller at Valentia Coast Guard, added: “The Irish Coast Guard often respond to incidents involving swimmers caught in rip currents where they find themselves unable to swim safely ashore. Sadly, the outcome from some of these incidents can be fatal.”

Welcoming the initiative, Mayor of the County of Cork, Cllr Danny Collins, said: “We would appeal to all to choose a lifeguarded beach if you are going for a swim this summer. Let's all continue to work together to keep as safe as possible. Above all, please supervise children around water and be safe.”

The virtual reality educational experience will visit educational events, schools, swimming pools and beaches over the coming months.