Cooling off in rivers, canals, ponds, quarries and lakes can have deadly consequences. Every year emergency services are called to incidents where residents (particularly children and young people) get into difficulty when swimming in open water.
Take heed of all water safety notices which warn you of the danger. Check out these national water safety signs for guidance.
During any period of hot weather, please help us to spread the word about the dangers of cooling off in open water.
Dangers of cooling off in open water
The water may look calm on the surface, but there may still be strong undercurrents that could pull even a strong swimmer under.
The water may also feel relatively warm on the surface, but just a few feet below can be icy cold even in the hot weather and can very quickly cause severe cramp and hypothermia.
Young people often misjudge their swimming ability – they may view a river or lake as a tempting means of cooling off during a hot spell of weather, but fail to appreciate the harmful effects that the cold water can have on their stamina and strength.
Due to these dangers, we are urging people, particularly children and teenagers, not to swim anywhere other than in purpose-built and supervised swimming pools.
What to do if you see someone in difficulties
- Get help: ring 999 or get someone else to do it. Alternatively if you are on your own without a mobile phone, call for help if you can see people nearby, or go and get help.
- Think: of your own safety first. Don’t put yourself in danger by going into the water to rescue someone – you may get in difficulties in the water too.
- Look: for any safety equipment close at hand such as lifebuoys or throwing lines.
- 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 yourself.
- Throw: a rope is best because you can then pull the person in. If you don’t have any rope, throwing something in that will float such as a football or even an empty plastic bottle will help in keeping the person afloat until help arrives.
- Keep warm: once rescued, keep the casualty warm and ensure they get medical help as soon as possible.
Tombstoning – What is it dangerous?
Tombstoning offers a high-risk, high-impact experience but it can have severe and life-threatening consequences. This is because:
- Water depths alter with the tide – the water may be shallower than it seems
- Submerged objects like rocks may not be visible – these can cause serious impact injuries
- The shock of cold water can make it difficult to swim
- Getting out of the water is often more difficult than people realise
- Strong currents can rapidly sweep people away
Key safety tips for staying safe near water
- Alcohol and swimming do not mix – stay out of the water if you have been drinking.
- Always watch your child while at the beach, lake or other natural bodies of water.
- Never let older children swim in unsupervised areas like quarries, canals or ponds.
- Do not swim near motor boats, jet skis or other power vehicles.
- Never interfere with lifesaving equipment – you might need it yourself.
- Learn to spot and keep away from dangerous water.
- Take safety advice – heed notices which warn you of the danger.
- Children should always visit open water sites with a grown-up.
- Swimming anywhere other than at purpose built and supervised swimming pools is highly dangerous and is not recommended.
More advice and information about water safety including garden ponds, ice safety, bath seats and child drowning can be found on the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) website.
Further advice is also available from the Royal Lifesaving Society