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In this month’s blog, I wish to discuss the dangers of swimming in open water such as rivers, lakes, canals, reservoirs, ponds and lochs. This is one of the hottest Julys’ on record and I know the water looks tempting and refreshing, but with the recent drowning of a young man in Cambridge last week and reports of youths swimming in the local rivers and lochs I feel I need to address the issue. Around 85% of accidental drownings occur at open water sites. Many of these drownings occur due to a lack of knowledge and understanding of open water safety. The basic principles of open water safety, combined with knowledge and understanding of the hazards, can increase enjoyment of open water and significantly reduce the number of incidents that occur each year.
Do’s, Don’ts and the Dangers of Open Water
- Swim at unsupervised (un-lifeguarded sites) including lakes, quarries reservoirs and rivers
- Jump into the water until you have acclimatised to the water temperature
- Jump into the water from heights or ‘tombstone’
- Swim into deep water which will be colder
- Swim at supervised (lifeguarded) sites
- Swim parallel with the shore, where you can quickly get to safety
- Be aware of underwater hazards
- Swim with friends or family, so that you can help each other if you need to
- Look for signs and advice about the specific dangers at the place where you are swimming
- Think about what you will do if something goes wrong
- Contact a reputable outdoor pursuits or coasteering centre if you want to take part in more extreme activities
Dangers of open water include-
- The height of the fall or jump if tombstoning
- The depth of the water – this changes and is unpredictable
- Submerged objects may not be visible such as shopping trolleys or bicycles
- Obstacles or other people in the water
- Lack of safety equipment and increased difficulty for rescue
- The shock of cold water can make swimming difficult and increase the difficulty in getting out of the water
- Strong currents can rapidly sweep people away
- Uneven banks and river beds
Water quality e.g. toxic algal blooms and industrial/agricultural pollution can make you ill
All of these hazards can be controlled through proper organisation and planning.
If someone is in difficulty in the water –
- Shout reassurance to them and shout for help and ensure the emergency services are on their way (call 999 inland or 112 if at the Coast)
- Without endangering yourself, see if you can reach out to them, extend your reach with a stick, pole, item of clothing, lie down or stay secure. Alternatively throw something buoyant to them such as a ring buoy, part filled plastic container, ball or anything that will float.
- Keep your eye on them all the time and shout reassurance urging them to propel themselves to safety.
TAKE SAFETY ADVICE!
Be safe in the sun this holiday season,
PCSO 7230 HODGSON