The first World Drowning Prevention Day was on Sunday 25th July. It was supported by the UN Resolution on Drowning Prevention and the National Water Safety Forum (NWSF) which includes BSAC and the RNLI. The aim of the day was to reduce accidental drowning fatalities and to show that drowning is preventable. Over the last decade 2.5 million have people lost their lives in drowning incidents.
With the recent balmy weather and many families still unsure about travelling abroad this Summer, UK beaches are likely to be much busier this year. It is easy to get lulled into a false sense of security on our own turf, yet Mother Nature can be just as brutal on beach playgrounds as she can far out to sea. While we pay close attention to COVID rules, applying sunscreen and keeping flies out of our sandwiches, we shouldn’t lose site of the dangers of water. Please see our list of safety tips below:
Float to live is part of an RNLI water safety campaign, to teach people what to do if they find themselves in danger in the water. Cold water energises breathing and heart rate which can stimulate panic. Resist the urge to thrash. If you do unexpectedly find yourself in a scary in-water situation, the idea is to float at the surface. Lean back to keep your mouth away from the water; rest and relax to get your breathing under control; spread out your arms and legs and wait for help to arrive.
Swim at beaches that have lifeguard cover. Find My Nearest is a section of the RNLI website which will provide information on the dates and times your local beach is patrolled by RNLI lifeguards. There is also a weather forecast and tidal information. Swim only between the red and yellow flags. This will keep you away from boats, kitesurfers and other water sports enthusiasts. Follow advice written on safety signs alerting you of local dangers.
Understand Rip currents. Rip currents push out to open sea. They can unexpectedly drag you far from the shore into deeper water. Never try to fight a rip current. Swim parallel to the shore until you can get free of it. Wade if you can, raise your hand to be seen and shout for help. To avoid them, look for choppy bubbling water at the surface and swim only between red and yellow flags.
Be aware of causeways and headlands. While some sandy beach areas look safe for walking, with changing tides you can find yourself cut off from land. Tides vary within the month and can be unpredictable. The UK has some of the biggest tidal ranges in the world. Check tide times either with the coastguard or at magicseaweed.com and let someone know where you are going and when you expect to be back. Make sure you have your mobile phone with you fully charged. In the UK dial 999 for the coastguard.
Pay attention to windsocks and flags. An orange windsock indicates the presence of offshore or strong winds. If you see an orange windsock on the beach, avoid using an inflatable or float. A red flag indicates danger. Never go in the water when the red flag is up.
Stay hydrated! While it is tempting to crack open the cold ones on the beach, remember that alcohol can cause poor judgement as well as making you dehydrated in hot weather. Dehydrated skin also burns faster. The recommendation is to drink some water every 15 minutes on a day at the beach to replace some of the moisture you are losing.
Wear the correct exposure protection. All waters around the UK are cold enough to induce cold water shock effects, even in high summer. Wetsuits are essential for activities like open water snorkelling. Remember that children lose heat in water much faster than adults do.
Build up slowly. When returning to an activity like diving after a period of inactivity BSAC recommends the following: Ensure you and your equipment are fit and ready, practice/refresh your skills in controlled conditions and start slowly and build up progressively. The Covid-19 pandemic has had a substantial impact on diving activity in the UK from pools being closed to generally less diving activities taking place. Make sure you are “dive fit” and ready to return to the water safely. Remain attentive to any potential signs of distress or difficulty from others on or near water and provide assistance where necessary.