21 July 2021
As the summer heatwave continues many people are choosing to cool down in the water outdoors. However it’s important to be aware of the many dangers of swimming in open water, whether that’s at the beach, a river or a lough.
Throughout the UK there has been a significant increase in accidental drownings and water related rescues this summer as a result of people being caught unaware of the dangers.
If you’re planning on enjoying the water be aware of the dangers and be water safe:
- If going to the beach during the summer, go to a lifeguarded beach, and swim between the red and yellow flags.
- Be aware of the dangers- cold water can affect you physically and you can get Cold Water Shock, the water can be deeper that you expect and there may be hidden currents.
- Before going into the water check to make sure that the conditions don’t exceed your ability. Swimming in open water is very different to swimming in a pool. Know your limits and don’t take risks.
- When you enter, take a moment to acclimatise to the water temperature.
- Go with others and look out for each other. While you’re in have someone watching you and make sure they have a way to call for help.
- Wear a flotation device.
- Make sure your phone is charged so you can call for help if you come across anyone who needs it.
- If you see someone in difficulty in the water call for help, preferably a lifeguard if there is one nearby. Alternatively ring 999.
Cold Water Shock
Even though there has been a period of hot weather, the open water throughout Northern Ireland will still be very cold. ‘Cold Water Shock’ refers to a range of natural reactions that our bodies take to protect us when we enter cold water.
What you should do if you fall into the water:
- Keep your mouth away from the water until you have your breathing back under control, you can do this by rolling onto your back and floating or paddling to stay at the surface.
- Once you’re calm, don’t waste any time and swim towards an exit before your muscles start to cool, or swim towards something that will help you to stay afloat whilst you are calling for help.
- Once you are out of the water re-warm yourself as soon as you can to avoid hypothermia.
You can read more about the dangers of open water and how to keep safe here:
You can find more NIFRS summer safety advice here.