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firefighters on a rescue boat

Water safety

The dangers of open water

  • The water is often far deeper than people might think.
  • It's very cold, which can quickly cause cramp and breathing difficulties.
  • It may contain hidden rubbish and debris, such as shopping trolleys and broken glass, which can cause injuries and lead to drowning.
  • Sometimes it can be polluted which could lead to illness.

During the school holidays, and in particular in hot weather, increasing numbers of children are drowning. On average, there are 50 of these tragedies each year in the UK.


If you do decide to swim in a lake or river, make sure you keep yourself as safe as possible...

  • Don't jump or dive in as the water can contain unseen hazards and be far deeper than it looks.
  • Never swim near weirs or locks as there are often dangerous currents.
  • Always make sure someone on land knows you are swimming.

If you see someone in trouble in water

  • Do not hesitate - call 999 immediately with clear details of your location.
  • Send someone to the nearest road to flag down the emergency services when they arrive and direct them to the incident.
  • Find the nearest life ring and throw it to the person. If a life ring is not available, throw in anything that could help them float, for example, a football.
  • If someone goes under the water, mark on the water’s edge the place they were last seen with something like a piece of clothing.