Enjoy our waterways but stay safe. That is the message from the Environment Agency to people who may be tempted to visit their local river during the current hot weather.
Fast currents, weirs and locks, cold water and unstable riverbanks can pose a serious health and safety risk – or even kill. It’s a startling fact that the majority of people who drown in rivers can actually swim.
“Water claims the lives of more than 50 children a year in the UK. Drowning is the third most common accidental death among Britain’s under 16s, behind road accidents and house fires. We have worked hard to raise awareness among young people but the statistics show there is still work to do to get the message across that the hazards are often hidden, and underestimating the dangers of water can have tragic consequences.” Environment Agency Waterways Manager Irven Forbes.
The Agency has also linked up with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) to produce the popular website www.watersafetykids.co.uk
More than half of all drownings each year occur in rivers, canals, lakes and pools. According to RoSPA in 2009, coastal and inland waters claimed the lives of 405 people.
The Environment Agency has issued 10 tips to ensure people stay safe around water. They are:
- Don’t jump or dive into rivers – the depth is uncertain and there can be unseen dangers in the water.
- Be aware of strong currents and don’t go into water near weirs, locks, pipes and sluices.
- Take notice of safety information, warning signs and flags. Know what they mean and do as they advise.
- Water can be very cold no matter what time of year. Cold water can quickly cause cramp and breathing problems making it difficult to swim.
- Keep away from the river’s edge and supervise young children. Drowning can occur very quickly, even in shallow water.
- Wear the recommended safety equipment for your activity, such as life jackets and helmets.
- Airbeds, inner tubes and other floatation devices can easily be carried or blown into deep water and may not keep you afloat.
- Consuming alcohol may impair your ability and judgment when on or in water.
- Get trained in lifesaving and resuscitation techniques. Know what to do in an emergency.
- Teach children to swim and not to go into water alone, or unsupervised. Always ensure someone knows where you are and what you’re doing.
What to do if you see someone in difficulties:
Get help: Ring 999 or get someone else to. If you are on your own without a mobile phone, shout for help if people are nearby, or go and get help.
Think: Of your own safety first. Don’t go into the water to rescue someone – you may get in trouble too.
Reach: A stick, scarf or clothes tied together can help you reach the person. Crouch or lie down to avoid being pulled into the water.
Throw: A rope is best – you can pull the person to dry land. If you don’t have rope, throwing something in that will float, such as a ball, a plastic bottle or a lifebuoy, will help keep the person afloat until help arrives.
Keep warm: once rescued, keep the casualty warm and ensure they get medical help as soon as possible.
The Environment Agency manages around 1,000km of navigable inland waterway across England and Wales and issues safety advice as part of its role to encourage everyone to enjoy these rivers, as well as coastal waters, wisely. It is also one of several leading organisations that make up the National Water Safety Forum, which aims to prevent water-related fatalities and accidents. Check out our interactive website at www.watersafetykids.co.uk
Children and teachers can also find out more on www.wow4water.net/