"I applied to join the Westpac helicopter and was lucky enough to get the job. I've been with the crew at Garden City Aviation coming up two years.
"My primary job is crewing, along with a pilot and an intensive care paramedic. I'm in charge of operating the winch and putting the medic down, wherever that may be, to get them to the patient, and assisting with clinical care.
"We work two 12-hour shifts so there's always a helicopter on call 24/7. On night shift (from 7pm to 7am) we stay on base here.
"A typical day can involve … anything! We arrive, prepare the helicopter and our gear, then do a handover with the previous crew about anything that's happened the night before. We get a heads-up on that and hear about any gear that's required, so that we're ready to respond when the helicopter is pushed out the door.
"We learn about the task in hand and go and do it. That can range from anywhere in the mountains to hospital-to-hospital transfers with a doctor and a nurse. At this time of year, a lot of people are at beaches and in the water so we undertake water rescues as well."
Water may be the ultimate playground for many Kiwis but it needs to be respected. French has clear, practical advice if you're around when something goes wrong – when someone finds themselves in difficulties. What can you do before the rescue helicopter arrives?
"Remember these three things: respond quickly, get them out of the water and begin good CPR. Everyone out there needs to learn and have an understanding of good-quality CPR – it's the key to a good outcome before we get to the scene and can apply higher clinical care."
Research released by Westpac NZ has found more than three-quarters of the country is not confident of performing CPR in an emergency. With more than 60 people dying annually from preventable drownings in New Zealand, the bank has launched a nationwide CPR refresher course to help keep Kiwis safe this summer.
A nationally representative survey of 1001 people commissioned by Westpac found 71 per cent of Kiwis say they know CPR but only 18 per cent would be "very confident" if called upon in an emergency.
Of those who do not know how to perform CPR, 88 per cent would like to learn and feel they have a responsibility to do so. The most common place to learn CPR is through workplace First Aid courses.
Westpac NZ CEO David McLean says the bank wants more New Zealanders to learn the basics of CPR, especially those who spend a lot of time around water.
With musical assistance from Kingz, the bank has rolled out online resources to make CPR more accessible for all New Zealanders. Check out their video teaching the right rhythm to perform CPR by Googling "CPRoject".
"Water Safety NZ statistics show seven children under the age of five drowned last year in preventable circumstances. In many cases, these children are too young to understand water safety so we as a community need to be looking out for them," McLean says.
Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter intensive care paramedic Casey Drum agrees with her fellow chopper crewman, French: "We know how much Kiwi kids love spending time around the water and it's really important to us that they're safe while doing so," she says.
"Westpac chopper crews respond to emergencies as fast as we can, but every minute that goes by without CPR or defibrillation reduces the chance of survival by 10-15 per cent. Having more people ready and able to perform CPR until they get there could mean the difference between life and death."
It's all fun… until something goes wrong
Surf Life Saving NZ volunteers know water-based activities can be fun but they're acutely aware of how quickly things can go wrong. Here are some safety tips for newbies to water sports.
Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP)
Make sure it comes with a leash that's right for the conditions. You'll need a different leash for SUPing in the surf as opposed to rivers or harbour mouths. SUPers should be set up with a lifejacket or PFD (personal floatation device). Check out www.supsafe.nz for more info on how to pick the right leash, as well as other safety tips.
If you're not an experienced SUP user, consider signing them up for lessons. New Zealand Stand Up Paddling offers inexpensive courses throughout the country.
A lifejacket or PFD could save your life if you get into trouble on the water. You will need two forms of waterproof communication such as a hand-held VHF radio, a PLB (personal locator beacon) or a cellphone in a waterproof lanyard bag. For more sea kayaking safety tips, check out the Kiwi Association of Sea Kayakers website, kask.co.nz
New to sea kayaking? Consider signing up for a course or link up with an experienced friend or family member who can show you the ropes.
Surfing NZ recommends lessons for first-time surfers before choosing a board. You'll find a list of approved surf schools on their website, surfingnz.co.nz
If you are buying a surfboard, get some advice at a surf shop to choose the best option based on age, size and level of experience - and don't forget a quality leash/leg-rope is essential for safe surfing.
Don't stop at a board for the kids – they need fins and an attached leash. A leash that's attached to the boogie board means your child will have a flotation device if they get into difficulty in the water - and fins will give them extra kicking power so they can swim back to shore.
Keen to try rock fishing? Invest in a lifejacket - and wear it! It will help keep you afloat if swept off the rocks.
Inflatable pool toys
The key word here is "pool". Every summer volunteer surf lifeguards spend hours rescuing people swept out to sea on inflatable pool toys. Even on the calmest of beaches, an offshore breeze will sweep you out to sea very quickly. If Santa delivered an inflatable pool toy, make sure it stays home when the family heads to the beach.
For more beach safety tips, see SLSNZ's Beach Safety Messages page surflifesaving.org.nz/stay-safe/beach-coastal-safety or check out the Safer Boating website saferboating.org.nz
Older but not wiser
People over 65 years old are the most likely age group to drown in New Zealand.
Water Safety NZ notes that because people are living longer and want to jump back into the water, drowning statistics for this age group have risen.
In the past three summers they have been the highest category in drowning statistics.
Nearly three-quarters of those drownings were people on their own in the water, with no one around to help or call on when things went wrong.
Growing participation in water activities such as paddle-boarding and rock fishing is also blamed for drownings.
Water Safety NZ points out that life jackets have evolved to the point that there are a lot of different types and varieties for different activities – and, simply, they save lives.