There were 669 water-related fatalities in 2013 – that’s two-and-a-half times the number of people that died in dwelling fires in 2012/13. [Sources: National Water Safety Forum Water Incident Database (WAID) data, 2013and Fire Statistics Great Britain, 2012-13]
The dangers associated with open water are listed below:
Alcohol and bathing
Alcohol causes loss of coordination and slows reaction times, as well as reducing the body’s core temperature and increasing the susceptibility to cold.
Even during warm weather, temperatures in open waters are dangerously low. This can affect even strong swimmers, causing loss of strength and muscle coordination. Prolonged exposure to cold can cause hypothermia, inducing mental confusion and irrational behaviour.
Open water used by animals can carry diseases such as Leptospirosis (Weil’s disease), which has flu-like symptoms and can be fatal.
Murky or fast-flowing water can conceal hazards such as rocks or discarded rubbish. Jumping in can be deadly.
Underwater plants can wrap around bathers, leading to breathing difficulties and panic.
Just 15cm of fast flowing water can knock an adult off their feet. Deeper water with fast currents is extremely hazardous.
Bathers are advised to:
- Only use venues designed for open-air bathing.
- Pay attention to all warning signs.
If you see someone in difficulty:
- Shout for help and dial 999 and ask for the Fire Service at inland water sites or the Coast Guard if you're at the beach.
- Reach with a long stick, a scarf, clothes or anything else. Crouch or lie down to avoid being pulled in.
- Throw, A rope is best - you can then pull in the person. Otherwise throw something that will float - a ball, a plastic bottle or a lifebuoy.
- Do not jump in to try to save them.