The sea could be your best friend and your worst enemy at the same time, something that is highly dependent on how you deal with waves that you should acquaint yourself thoroughly with. Every year, there are news reports of people drowning at the beach; most of these accidents occur during the monsoon season when the tides are ferocious and unpredictable, and yet people challenge such a ground reality unbeknownst to the dangers that lie ahead. Karachi’s coastline stretches around 40 kilometres, covering an array of beaches that include Sea View, Clifton, Sandspit, French Beach, Hawks Bay, Kanupp Point, Paradise Point, Sunehri, Cape Monze and Mubarak Village. The highly erratic Arabian Sea makes these beaches susceptible to dangers during the monsoon season of the region that commences around mid-May and lasts until mid-August. This is also the time period attracting a high footfall at the beaches of Karachi especially knowing the fact that the school summer holidays coincide during the same time period. This is when visitors are most vulnerable as well, especially when most pay no heed to the advice of lifeguards or the safe boundaries marked for them. Thanks to the establishment of some lifeguard services, beach patrolling has become more thorough and beaches, comparatively safe. What used to be 250 to 300 deaths annually has come down to near zero today. “After getting acquainted with the challenges of saving lives at beaches, we decided it’s high time that we fill this gap and give back to the society much in need of a life-saving service. We established a full-fledged beach rescue service in July 2004, a time when public holidays would be synonymous with a certain number of deaths. Mostly it used to be dead bodies being pulled out of the sea as opposed to people being rescued alive. Time is of the essence. There is a duration of three minutes from when a victim starts struggling until the time he/she is rescued alive; this is why our lifeguards are always on high alert at beaches they have been assigned duties on,” Pakistan life saving foundation (PALS Rescue) Chief Administrator Syed Muhammad Ahsan says. PALS Rescue is one such privately run non-profit organisation that is the only near-shore water safety service that provides lifesaving facilities along Karachi’s beaches. Their services include lifeguard patrols and instilling education through public safety campaigns throughout the city. The organisation employs over 250 lifeguards who work tirelessly from dawn till dusk, at various beach points, with Hawks Bay being the widest and harshest – stretching as far as 9km. Meanwhile the demand doubles during the peak season, that is, during the monsoon season that could now even last until the end of September, owing to climatic changes around the globe. Ever since its establishment, PALS Rescue has saved over 5,000 lives and conducted 7 million preventive actions, while providing safety to about 8 million beach visitors on an annual basis. Thanks to the establishment of some lifeguard services, beach patrolling has become more thorough and beaches, comparatively safe. What used to be 250 to 300 deaths annually has come down to near zero today However, just like any other non-governmental organisation, PALS Rescue faces a dire lack of cash flows and is highly dependent on funding by corporations and philanthropists, and above all, needs ongoing support from the government. There is a persistent need for the government to collaborate with such an organisation, to make life-saving efforts more sustainable through the expansion of the PALS Rescue’s fleet. This will ensure that no stone is left unturned to save lives along Karachi’s coast which serves as a great picnic spot for people. PALS Rescue’s visibility is therefore crucial for safety at our beaches, something that can only be ensured through a regular stream of corporate sponsorships, individual donations, and government grants that they depend upon. While PALS Rescue is fulfilling its responsibility, beach goers also need to practice caution when the tides are high, especially the presence of rip currents. These might appear quite innocuous to begin with but may end up engulfing everything in its vicinity, thus generating a strong pull all the way into deep waters. This is what paves the way for a life and death situation if this particular wave finally finds human bait. These waves are formed by large breaking waves as a result of water being forced up the beach above mean sea level and are dependent on the lowermost typography. Sandspit, for instance, is steep with sudden depth changes, creating room for the formation of rapidly travelling plunging waves aka dumping waves that explode as they reach the shore and are observed in offshore wind conditions. Beach specific education is almost non-existent which creates room for self-awareness and responsibility being shown at an individual level because when a life is lost the impact is not just limited to that victim only but something that amplifies tenfold, considering the entire grieving family. The writer is a communication professional. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Published in Daily Times, February 3rd 2019.