The idea of swimming in a river or lake will be appealing to many people during this current spell of warm weather.
We at Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service are urging people to stay safe when near open water as we enter the summer months.
Around 85% of accidental drownings occur at open water sites, and many of these drownings occur due to a lack of knowledge and understanding of the hazards posed by open water.
Whilst the benefits of open water swimming are well documented, we feel it's important to remind potential swimmers of the hazards posed by swimming in open water:
Cold Water Shock - This affects your ability to breathe normally, can cause problems with heart and blood pressure and can also impair your mental ability. Whilst you may think that you’re a strong swimmer, cold water shock can lead to rapid deterioration of your strength.
Lack of safety equipment and increased difficulty for rescue – this is particularly true for those who swim in remote locations.
Tombstoning – This can be particularly dangerous if you don’t know the depth, temperature or what’s underneath the surface of the water
Strong currents – these can rapidly sweep people away
Water quality, e.g. toxic algal blooms and industrial/agricultural pollution
Uneven / Undercut riverbanks and riverbeds (Around 60% of people who drown have ended up in the water accidentally)
If you accidentally fall in the water, follow these important safety tips:
Take a minute. The initial effects of cold-water pass in less than a minute so don’t try to swim straight away.
Relax and float on your back to catch your breath. Try to get hold of something that will help you float.
Keep calm then call for help or swim for safety if you’re able.
Once you are out of the water re-warm yourself as soon as you can to avoid hypothermia.
If someone falls into the water or gets into trouble whilst swimming, the instinct to jump in and help can be overwhelming, but it can quickly lead to tragedy without the right training or equipment. Stay on land and make the right call, CALL 999. Try and calm the person down, get them to float on their back and reach something out to them (such as a long stick), or use rescue throwlines that may be present.