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Safety around open water

Red and white life ring with the text: Be water aware, don't be tempted to cool off in open in open water. it hides many hazards such as debris, weeds and reeds, as well as being extremely cold
Swimming in or playing near rivers, canals and other bodies of open water may seem like a great idea, particularly on a warm day, but it could all end in tragedy. Remember, there are no lifeguards to help you at your local river, lake, canal or dam. Don't take the risk.

The water is cold

Even on very warm days, rivers and canals contain water barely above 10 degrees. Sudden immersion can lead to cold water shock, which can cause gasping and intake of water. This can be deadly in a matter of seconds.

Hidden currents can catch you out

Even the narrowest of rivers can be considerably deep. Rivers are subject to strong flow and hidden currents which can trouble even the strongest of swimmers.

The water is untreated and can make you ill

Canals and rivers contain pollutants, sewage and often unseen water obstructions and snag hazards. Debris under the water such as shopping trolleys, broken glass and cans can cause injury or trap you.

You can get in but can you get out?

Rivers can be very difficult to climb out of, especially with steep or slimy banks. Stay clear of rivers with steep or unguarded banks.

If you see someone in danger in the water:

In an emergency, NEVER enter the water to try and help a person or animal - you could get into difficulty yourself.

Instead, remember to CALL, TELL, THROW:

  • CALL - dial 999 
  • TELL - Tell the person in difficulty to float on their back
  • THROW - Look for something that floats or that they could hold onto and throw it to them.

If you fall into the water unexpectedly or find yourself in difficulty, remember 'Float to live'

  • Fight your instinct to thrash around - lean back and extend your arms and legs
  • Float until you can control your breathing
  • Only then, call for help, swim to safety or continue floating until help arrives