Water Safety Advice Issued

Water safety advice is being issued to local residents by Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service.

Whilst the weather has cooled down for the time being, there are plenty more warm days forecast for summer.  As can be expected, an increase in temperatures sees an increase in wild swimming, as people head to Oxfordshire’s rivers and lakes to help keep cool.

Sadly, though, statistics reveal that one person dies from drowning every 20 hours in the UK, with it being the third highest cause of accidental death of children.  That means, that across the UK, around 400 people drown every year, whilst thousands more suffer injuries, often life-changing, through near-drowning experiences.

With this in mind, and due the increase in water related incidents in warmer weather, The Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service have released an official warning about the potential risks of open water; as well as guidance on how to stay safe and what to do if someone gets into trouble in the water.

Oxfordshire is lucky to have a multitude of rivers, streams and canals to enjoy, yet despite their prevalence, many locals overlook a specific danger.  This is the possibility that whilst the weather is warm, the water itself is often not warm.

Rob MacDougall, Chief Fire Officer for Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service notes that even on a warm day, the temperature of a body of open water can remain very cold, meaning that jumping into that water can often result in a cold-shock response.   He explains:

“You gasp for air. Meaning that you could breathe in water. You hyperventilate. This over-breathing can make you light-headed and, as your brain is deprived of oxygen, you may become disoriented.  Your body’s cold shock response, which speeds up the heart rate, may conflict with the drowning response, which does the opposite, causing your heart to go into abnormal rhythms which can cause sudden death.”

Rob encourages everyone to “expect the unexpected” when planning to go into the water and if something does go wrong, to immediately offer suitable assistance or call or help.  He continues:

“Anyone witnessing someone in trouble in the water should call 999 and shout for help. They shouldn’t enter the water themselves; instead throw something in that floats. The advice is for a person in trouble to float on their back, not try to swim.”

Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service advises that:

  • Reservoirs, lakes, rivers and other inland water may look safe and inviting, particularly on a warm day. But there are hidden dangers below the surface that could make people ill, cause injury; even kill.
  • Even on a warm day, the temperature of the water in a reservoir, quarry or lake can remain very cold. The low water temperature can numb limbs and claim lives.
  • From the surface, it’s not always possible to see what’s under the water. This could be anything from large rocks to machinery; from shopping trolleys to branches, and even fish hooks or broken fishing line, all of which could cause injury.
  • Moving water, such as rivers, might look calm but there could be strong currents below the surface. Even reservoirs have currents, caused by working machinery. Whether or not someone’s a strong swimmer, currents can carry them into danger.

Twitter users can find out more at #BeWaterAware