With summer fast approaching the Environment Agency is reminding people not to take unnecessary risks while trying to cool off, and to always make sure family and friends stay safe.
The warning comes a year after several serious incidents on the Thames. Water can contain hazards, particularly in and around structures such as bridges, locks and flood channels, as well as dangerous flows after rain and thunderstorms. Unexpectedly cold waters or strong currents can also catch bathers off guard.
Rivers are great places to have fun, get close to nature and spend time with friends and family, but vigilance can save lives and water-related accidents can be avoided by knowing how to stay safe.
Russell Robson, Waterways team leader for the Environment Agency, said:
The summer is always a busy time on our rivers, and we expect the River Thames to be a focal point for a lot of people’s leisure time. When the days are long and warm, there is nothing more idyllic than lazing by a meandering river and dipping your toes in the cooling water though we want people to not just enjoy it, but to remember some basic safety points as well.
The key safety points are:
If you get into trouble in the water, Float to Live.
Lean back and use your arms and legs to help you float, then get control of your breathing before calling for help or swimming to safety.
If you see someone else in trouble in the water, call 999 or 112. If you are at the coast ask for the coastguard, if you are inland, ask for the fire service.
Over the last few years, we have worked hard to get the safety message out to children and parents, stressing that people stay away from the edge, that children must be accompanied by an adult, that water can be colder than it looks and that swimming should be confined to recognised swimming areas, pools and lidos.
We often see youngsters jumping off bridges along many of the rivers in the South East and, while this can be great fun, there are hidden dangers in the water that could cause them to get into difficulties. We are urging parents to supervise their children closely in and around water and make sure they do not go into the water alone.
Come and enjoy the river and all that is going on around it, but please remember to bring your common sense with you as well.
Top water safety tips
Don’t jump or dive in as the depth may vary and there can be unseen hazards.
Don’t go in near weirs, locks, pipes and sluices. These and some other water features are often linked with strong currents.
Inland waters can be very cold no matter how warm the weather. Those going into cold water can get cramp and experience breathing difficulties very quickly.
Most importantly, parents and guardians can help keep children in their care safe by:
- Teaching them to swim
- Warning them not to go into water alone or unsupervised
- Ensuring they know where the children are and what they are doing
- Supervising them closely when near any open water
Remember drowning can occur very quickly even in shallow water and the key to keeping safe is to take all necessary precautions to avoid getting into difficulty in the first place.