The SU

Staying Safe as you Swim

Staying Safe as you Swim

It might be tempting to jump into the river for a cool-down, but it's important to know what to do if anything goes wrong

CW: Death, Drowning, River Danger

The summer weather has well and truly arrived, and with that comes a lot of temptation to go out for a dip in the river or canal to cool down. We aren’t your parents, we aren’t going to tell you not to go swimming but we think it’s important that everyone’s aware of the risks involved and what to do if you or your friends end up in danger.

Why is it dangerous?

In the UK last year, there were 631 water-related deaths of which 58% of them were within Inland waterways such as the canals and rivers that we’re so blessed to have on our doorstep. Whilst they’re beautiful to look at, there are a lot of hazards to be aware of:

  • The temperature in the river is extremely cold compared to the outdoor temperature. The rapid change in body temperature can cause your body to go into shock which can cause cramping, shortness of breath or the inability to move.
  • The water in the river isn’t all that clean. There are traces of all sorts in the water and ingesting it could leave you with water-borne diseases such as Weil’s disease. If you have any cuts, grazes or open wounds, the water is also a breeding ground for infections.
  • There’s a LOT of rubbish in the river and canal. And by rubbish, we don’t mean the odd crisp packet. There’s debris from old construction sites, shopping trollies, large pieces of wood; lots of things that could hurt you, a lot.
  • Particularly by the Weirs, there’s quite a strong undercurrent that can suck you into the water. Even the strongest swimmers will find these tough to get out of.

How to keep yourself safe

Of course, the easiest way to stay out of danger is to avoid the water where you can. But if you do want to go for a swim, these tips can help ensure you stay safe:

  • Make sure you’re with friends, and that you aren’t all in the water in one go. This is quite important as somebody needs to be on safe and dry land in case anything goes wrong!
  • Only go swimming in parts of the river you are comfortable in. For example, where you know there are safe entry and exit routes
  • Try to stick where there are safety measures. There are many safety stations along the river in town and some in the popular swimming places Warleigh Weir and Avoncliff, so make sure you know the location of your nearest one before you jump in. In saying that, a lot of these spots, including Warleigh Weir, are not designated swimming spots and therefore, you shouldn’t assume that just because there’s a buoy that they are safe!
  • Read any signs and safety information before you go in. The signs are there for a reason.
  • A lot of water-related deaths are also linked with alcohol consumption. As nice as a glass of wine or a cider in the sun is, wait until you’re away from open water before you have any.

What to do if anything happens

If someone you are with ends up in trouble, do not jump in after them.

  1. Call 999 and request the Fire and Rescue services and tell them the location on the river safety cabinet.
    1.  If you do not have a safety cabinet nearby, what3words safety app will give you more location details.
  2. If there’s a safety cabinet located nearby, go, and get the rope or floatation device and throw this in.
    1. Try to make sure you’re laying flat or crouched to stop you from getting sucked in too. This is a great video to follow.
  3. If you are not near any safety feature, try and find something nearby that can float such as a rope, stick or your towel and throw this in
  4. Keep hold of this until safety comes.
    1.  If the person can get out with your assistance then great, however, do not pull them out if this also risks you falling in; for example, if there’s a slippery bank or a strong undercurrent.

For more information, please head to these websites:

Avon Fire and Rescue Safety Information

SCP -  River Safety Information 

RNLI- Know the Risks of Cold Water Shock