Water safety

Drowning is a leading cause of accidental death in the UK and we work with partner agencies to keep everyone safe around water.

During spells of warm weather, it can be tempting to cool off in weirs, rivers, lakes, reservoirs and marinas, but remember – outdoor swimming can have fatal consequences. Drownings can happen quickly and without warning and can have a devastating impact.

Dangers of water

Water can harbour many #HiddenDangers and so it’s important to know what you’re getting yourself into before taking the plunge:

  • We recommend that you never swim alone. If you do decide to go by yourself, always tell somebody where you’re going.
  • Even in the height of summer, the waters in England remain cold enough to induce cold water shock, the body’s involuntary response to being suddenly immersed into cold water. It can cause you to gasp for breath, inhale water and cause panic.
  • Hidden currents can make it difficult to swim back to shore, even for the strongest swimmers.
  • Water conditions can change quickly, weather can cause the ground to become unstable or increase water currents, which can be fatal.
  • The water is often far deeper than you may think.
  • From rocks to rubbish, there are many dangerous materials that may be lurking beneath the water. When swimming, it can be hard to see what lies beneath.
  • Water pollution and freshwater diseases can make you ill.
  • Remote locations may seem like the perfect spot for a swim, but these locations can be hard for Emergency Services to find in an emergency.

Staying safe around water

Our top tips for staying safe:

  • #MatesMatter; look out for those around you and make sure your friends aren’t taking unnecessary risks.
  • If someone falls into deep water, immediately call 999. If you are near the coast ask for the coastguard, if you are inland ask for the fire service and ambulance.
  • Never enter the water to try and save someone, always wait for emergency services.
  • Look around for lifesaving equipment to help the person exit the water or stay afloat.
  • You could attempt to reach out to someone struggling in water. Clothes such as scarves, or long sticks could be used. If you do this, lie on the ground so your entire body is safely on the edge and reach out with your arm. Don’t stand up or lean over the water.
  • If you find yourself in the water, remember #FloatToLive. Fight your instinct to swim hard, control your breathing and lie on your back to float.
  • When fishing, check that the spot you have chosen is safe. Remember that riverbanks can erode, so let someone know where you are going and have a fully charged phone.
  • Avoid throwing sticks or balls near water for dogs and never enter the water to try and save a dog. Dogs usually manage to scramble out by themselves.
  • Don’t drink and drown. If you fall into water after drinking, your chances of being able to get out of the water are decreased due to alcohol’s impairment of simple movements.
  • If you’re going wild water swimming, make sure to tell someone where you are going and download the app, What3Words, to help Services find out exactly where you are in the event of an emergency.

You’ve fallen in: What next? 

The RNLI’s #FloatToLive campaign offers clear advice on what to do in the event of falling in deep water. 

  • Everyone who falls unexpectedly into cold water instinctively reacts through panic and tries to swim hard to reach safety. However, your best chance of staying safe is to fight this instinct and float to live.
  • Lie back and keep your airways clear, push your stomach up and extend your limbs moving hands and feet to help you float.
  • Try to take and control the effects of cold water shock such as the gasping reflex. Once your breathing is controlled, call for help and if possible try making your way towards safety.
  • If you find yourself unexpectedly in the water, fight your instincts and#FloatToLive.

Do you work with a youth group or in a school? 

Why not book one of our free Water Safety sessions so that the young people with whom you work can learn all about the dangers of water, how to identify and mitigate risk and what to do in the event of an emergency. All sessions are tailored to the appropriate Key Stage and delivered by our experienced Children and Young Persons Team. Book a session now by completing the form found here: School visits - Avon Fire & Rescue Service