THE Environment Agency is reminding people not to take unnecessary risks while trying to cool off in the warm weather and to always make sure family and friends stay safe in and around the water.
The warning comes ahead of the forthcoming Bank Holiday weekend that might see visitors to the South West looking to cool off in the river.
Waterways can contain hazards, particularly in and around structures such as bridges, locks and weirs.
Unexpectedly cold waters or strong currents can also catch bathers off guard.
Weirs can be particularly dangerous locations with strong circular currents that can pull you under the water and make it hard to escape.
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.
A spokesperson for the Environment Agency, said: "The weather for the Bank Holiday is looking to be fine and warm, although many of our rivers are still bitterly cold. Sudden exposure to these temperatures can cause cold water shock which can immobilise and kill.
“The summer is always a busy time on the water, and we expect rivers to be a focal point for a lot of people’s leisure time.
“Over the last few years, we have worked hard along with many other partners, to share the safety message to children and parents, stressing that people stay away from the edge; children must be accompanied by an adult; water can be colder than it looks; and that swimming should be confined to recognised swimming areas, pools and lidos.
“While youngsters and even adults can sometimes be seen to be jumping into the water, there can be hidden dangers 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.
“Our message is to come and enjoy the river and all that is going on around it, but please follow safety advice and always take heed of all signage and warnings signalling dangers and hazards – they are there to keep you safe.”
Key safety points include:
· 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.
If you’re heading off to the beach, it is also worth checking the Environment Agency’s Swimfo website for up to date information on water quality before heading off to the beach: https://environment.data.gov.uk/bwq/profiles/ .
The National Water Safety Forum’s latest Water Incident Data shows there were 226 accidental drowning deaths in the UK in 2022. https://nationalwatersafety.org.uk/waid/annual-reports-and-data .
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:
1 Teaching them to swim
2 Warning them not to go into water alone, or unsupervised
3 Ensuring they know where the children are and what they are doing
4 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.
For further safety advice and particular dangers around structures found along waterways go to Staying safe around water - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) or visit sites of partners such as:
• The Canal and River Trust Safety on our waterways | Local canals and rivers | Canal & River Trust (canalrivertrust.org.uk)
Or follow the hashtag #RespectTheWater .