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Water safety advice during the hot weather

Warwickshire Police and West Mercia Police is offering advice and reminding people of the dangers of swimming in open water.

As summer temperatures soar, taking a cooling dip in the water is an obvious temptation, but one that often hides much less obvious dangers to your safety.

According to the Royal Life Saving Society, 85% of accidental drownings occur at open water sites such as lakes, rivers, canals, reservoirs and quarries. Bodies of water may look safe, but can hide dangers such as hidden currents, hazardous objects, pollution and the ever present risk of cold water shock.

Cold water shock affects our ability to swim and reach safety if experiencing difficulties. It is a common problem in the UK where water temperatures do not rise significantly throughout the year, and can have severe affects on your body in as little as three minutes.

Immersion in cold water leads to rapid cooling of the skin, gasping, hyperventilation and the restriction of blood flow. This in turn can lead to panic as muscle strength decreases due to lack of blood flow, causing fatigue and reduced control over body movements.

The longer you are in the water, the greater your chance of hypothermia as core body temperature drops to a dangerous level.

Be aware of the risks

Being a strong swimmer does not mean you will be safe in open water. The dangers include:

  • Cold water temperatures
  • Hidden currents
  • Unseen objects such as rubbish, broken glass or hazardous materials
  • Unknown water quality - health risks from pollution
  • Difficult to gauge water depth - you could find yourself in unexpectedly deep water or injure yourself jumping into shallow water

Tips for staying safe

The best way to stay safe is to ensure you only enter water where there is adequate supervision and rescue cover. Other tips include:

  • If walking or running near open water, keep away from the water's edge and supervise youngsters at all times
  • Don't swim near weirs, locks, pipes and sluices
  • Alcohol and swimming should never be mixed
  • Get out of the water as soon as you start to feel cold
  • Wear recommended safety equipment - for example life jackets and helmets if canoeing
  • Don't jump or dive into open water when you are unsure of the depth and any submerged hazards

If you see someone in difficulty tell a Lifeguard if there is one nearby, or dial 999 and ask for the police at inland water sites and the coastguard at the beach.

Throw something buoyant to them such as a ring buoy or anything that will float. You may be able to lie down for safety and reach out to them with a stick, pole or item of clothing, but this should only be attempted if safe to do so without endangering yourself.

For further advice and safety tips, please visit the water safety links below:

Royal Life Saving Society UK

The drowning prevention charity is the UK's leading provider of water safety and drowning prevention education.

Royal National Lifeboat Institution

Funded by charitable donations the RNLI has saved at least 140,000 lives at sea since 1824 and is another good source of water safety information.

The Royal Society For the Prevention Of Accidents

More information on water safety can be found on the website of RoSPA, a charity dedicated to saving lives and reducing injury which was founded more than a century ago.


Issued: 12 pm, Tuesday 19 July, Paul Roberts, Corporate Communications





Published 19/07/16