Staying safe in open water

Given the number of recent drownings in the UK, including two teenage girls in the River Wear, NSVL are urging people to take care and stay safe around open water. 

First, always swim in a supervised area.  Many beaches in the UK are supervised by lifeguards who indicate safe swimming zones and provide safety cover.  Look for red and yellow striped flags which show the supervised swimming zone.  Where there are hazards such as rip currents or contaminated water this will be indicated by red flags, meaning that the area is unsafe to swim in.  Rivers are unsupervised and unpredictable, making them extremely dangerous for swimming. 

Be aware of the dangers in the area in which you are swimming.  Look for signs containing information such as hazards or tides, and ask for advice if you’re unsure.  Tides can change the depth of the water and affect currents, and also cut off areas of the shore. 

Always swim with a friend and make sure someone knows where you are.  Before entering the water consider whether there is any Public Rescue Equipment available, such as life buoys or ropes.  Never swim in an area where swimming is banned as there will most likely be dangers such as fast flowing currents or dangerous plant life under the water. 

Although it may be sunny, open water can be extremely cold.  This may affect breathing and lead to hypothermia, so never jump into open water without acclimatising first.  Temperature can also vary within lakes and rivers according to the depth of the water in different parts. 

Sadly, many drownings are a result of entering the water to help someone else.  If you see someone in difficulty in open water call 999/112 and ask for the Coastguard.  Look for rescue equipment such as a life buoy or rope and throw this into the water to the person in difficulty.  If these are not available look for something buoyant such as a plastic container or a ball.  If the casualty is close to the shore use a branch or item of clothing to reach out to them, lying down to keep yourself safe and secure.  Reassure the casualty that help is on its way and encourage them to swim to the shore.  Never enter the water to help as this risks getting into danger yourself. 

Have fun and stay safe!

Advice from RLSS UK 

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