In the UK in 2019 214 accidental deaths were recorded by the Water Incident Database, of these 85% were male with the highest age bracket being 25 to 29 years old. A staggering 34% of these unavoidable deaths were attributed to the use of drugs or alcohol. Drowning is among the leading causes of accidental deaths and claims the lives of more than 50 children every year in the UK.
Under-estimating the dangers of water can have tragic consequences. You can’t always see the danger hidden below the surface. Water is unpredictable and even the strongest swimmers can get into trouble quickly.
Children and families are often drawn to open water particularly during the summer months, this includes places such as the sea, lakes, reservoirs, ponds, canals, rivers, and even paddling pools.
The key to staying safe is making the right choices to avoid getting into difficulty in the first place.
Here are some things you should be aware of:
- Water can contain many unseen hazards which can lead to injury and put your life at risk
- Open water is usually colder than that of your average swimming pool – this can affect your ability to swim and the temperature may cause your body to go into cold water shock which can lead to panic and even drowning
- In cold water, even the strongest swimmers fatigue quickly as the body’s core temperature deteriorates four times faster
- Some reservoirs can be up to 50 meters deep with sudden drop points that are impossible to see
- There can be unpredictable undercurrents which even the strongest swimmers may struggle with
- Water can look still but the undercurrents can pin a person to the riverbed
- There may be submerged strainers e.g. a tree, a shopping trolley, or vehicles under the water that water can pass through but humans cannot
- Water may have underwater equipment, particularly in reservoirs
- There may be contamination from unclean / unsafe water which can lead to infections and diseases
Water Safety in North Yorkshire
North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue have recently teamed up with regional partners to create a new Water Safety video presentation. You can read all about this on their website here.
North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue have produced a water safety presentation on YouTube which shows how different natural and man made water safety hazards can happen:
- Never let older children swim in unsupervised areas like quarries, canals or ponds.
- Never interfere with lifesaving equipment – you never know when it might be needed
- Never enter the water under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Always pay attention to warning signs and flags
- Always look out for people you are with, make sure they are safe
- Always take care when walking or running near water, especially when the paths are muddy or icy
- There are often hidden dangers beneath the surface such as plants, bikes, trolleys and broken glass
- Dogs generally get out of the water themselves, do not be tempted to go in after them – if you have a concern ring 999 and ask for the fire service
What should I do in an emergency?
Dogs generally get out of the water themselves, do not be tempted to go in after them – if you have a concern ring 999 and ask for the fire service.
If you see someone in difficulty:
- Shout for help and dial 999 and ask for the Fire Service at inland water sites or the Coast Guard if you’re at the beach.
- Reach with a long stick, a scarf, clothes or anything else. Crouch or lie down to avoid being pulled in.
- Throw a rope – you can then pull in the person. Otherwise throw something that will float – a ball, a plastic bottle or a lifebuoy.
- Do not jump in to try to save them.
Talk, Throw, Reach & Encourage
If you are trying to help someone who has fallen into or entered the water, you must remain calm and think clearly.
Shout for help and call 999. Always avoid entering the water yourself, instead try following the sequence below:
- TALK: Be clear and positive in your instruction. Talk the into a safe place.
- THROW: Ideally a piece of rescue equipment, however you need anything that will float. (lifering, a throw bag filled with rope, or other public rescue aid equipment).
- REACH: Only if they are close to the edge can you try and reach for them. Ensure you are as close to the ground as possible, so you also do not fall in.
- ENCOURAGE: Encourage anyone who has been in open or cold water to go to hospital. If an ambulance has been called, ensure the person is calm and warm until they arrive.
Stop and Think
- Take notice of safety information, warning safety signs & flags. Go to a lifeguarded beach or venue and swim between the red and yellow flags
- Do not use inflatables in open water
- No matter how warm it is on land, water is always cold. Be aware of Cold Water Shock
- Stay out of water near locks, bridges, weirs, sluices, & pipes as these structures are often linked with strong currents, do not jump in to water from height
Never go near open water alone
- Stay away from open water when you are alone. Always make sure you are with a friend or family member if you are going for a walk or a day out near open water
- Look out for your friends and family, and ensure everyone is staying safe together
What should I do if I fall into water?
FLOAT TO LIVE
- Fight your instinct to thrash around
First keep calm and try not to panic, your instinct will be to swim hard, don’t
- Lean back
Lay on your back and float like a starfish if you get into trouble in the water, breathe slowly, then you can make a plan or swim to safety if possible
- Gentle movements
If you need to, gently move your arms and legs in a sculling motion (a bit like when using an ore in a boat)
- Catch your breath
Float until you can control your breathing. Do this for 60-90seconds or until you feel calm
- Now think about how to get out
Only now can you think about the next steps
Yorkshire Water own and manage over 100 reservoirs in the Yorkshire area. They help maintain the reservoir and ensure the warning signs are clear and contain up to date information.
For more information visit Yorkshire Water – Water Safety
Colin the Coastguard
Colin the Coastguard is an interactive website for young children.
- There is a variety of fictional characters who have varying jobs surrounding keeping you safe in the water
- Their site includes adventure story books, safety posters and free activity sheets
Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents – RoSPA
Everything the RoSPA do is guided by two core principals, their vision and their mission.
Vision: Life, free from serious accidental injury
Mission: Exchanging life-enhancing skills and knowledge to reduce serious accidental injuries
It is wonderful to be outdoors, having fun in water, in a pool and on the beach – but it’s important to be aware of the risk that water poses to children and young people.
To view their Water Safety Code, please click here
Garden ponds are great! They’re nice to look at, good for wildlife… Unfortunately they’re not so good for children.
There are a number of easy options that can be taken to give parents and carers peace of mind and make ponds safer:
- Grille It
- Fence it
- Fill it
Water Safety Symbols
There are three main types of water safety signs you will find when you are around water. Each one has its own meaning, but all of them work to the same system.
To access a poster of the national water safety signs, please click here.
Further Information about Water Safety
Visit the Royal Life Saving Society website for more information
Visit the Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) website for more information
Updated 25 July 2023