The Environment Agency has listed its ten top tips to help people stay safe in and around water during Drowning Prevention Week.
Swimming in rivers may seem an attractive proposition during the summer, but fast currents, river weed, weirs and locks, unstable riverbanks and underwater objects can pose a serious health and safety risk – or even result in tragedy.
Drowning Prevention Week, which runs from June 22 to June 30, is a national campaign by the Royal Life Saving Society UK to promote staying safe around water.
More than half of drownings each year occur in rivers, canals, lakes and pools. The Environment Agency has issued the following ten tips to ensure people stay safe around water:
• Take notice of safety information, warning signs and flags.
• Teach children to swim and not to go to a river alone. Ensure that you know where your children are and what they are doing.
• Keep away from the river’s edge and supervise children. Drowning can occur very quickly in shallow water too.
• Do not jump or dive into rivers – you cannot judge the depth of the water just by looking at it and there can be unseen submerged dangers.
• Be aware of strong currents and don’t go into water near weirs, locks, pipes and sluices as these structures are often linked with strong currents.
• Water can be cold at any time of year, which can quickly cause cramp and breathing problems.
• Wear the recommended safety equipment for your activity, such as life jackets and helmets.
• Get trained in lifesaving and resuscitation techniques. Know what to do in an emergency.
• Airbeds, inner tubes and other floatation devices can easily be carried or blown into deep water and may not keep you afloat.
• Consuming alcohol will impair your ability and judgment in and around water.
The Environment Agency also has advice for people who see somebody in difficulty.
Get help: Ring 999 or get someone else to. If you are on your own without a mobile phone, shout for help if people are nearby, or go and get help.
Think: of your own safety. Don’t go into water to rescue someone – you may get in trouble too.
Reach: A stick, scarf or clothes tied together can help you reach the person. Crouch or lie down to avoid being pulled into the water.
Throw: A rope is best - you can pull the person to dry land. If you don’t have rope, throwing something in that will float, such as a ball, a plastic bottle or a lifebuoy, will help keep them afloat until help arrives.
Keep warm: Once rescued, keep the casualty warm and ensure they get medical help as soon as possible.
Sue Cant, from the Environment Agency’s waterways department, said: “We fully support Drowning Prevention Week, which echoes safety messages we give to people who enjoying our waterways.
“Underestimating the dangers of water can have tragic consequences. The key to keeping safe is to take all necessary precautions to avoid getting into difficulty in the first place.
“Water claims the lives of more than 50 children a year in the UK. Drowning is the third most common accidental death among Britain’s under 16s, behind road accidents and house fires.”
The Environment Agency manages around 1,000km of navigable inland waterway across England and Wales and issues safety advice as part of its role to encourage everyone to enjoy these rivers, as well as coastal waters, wisely.
It is also one of several leading organisations that make up the National Water Safety Forum, which aims to prevent water-related fatalities and accidents.
For more information about Drowning Prevention Week, visit www.drowningpreventionweek.org.uk