As the school summer holidays get into full swing, Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service is reminding young people and parents of the dangers in and around open water.
With temperatures high, people enjoying the fine weather may be tempted to cool off in rivers, lakes or the sea.
Alex Bennett, chief fire officer for Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service, said: “There are three main dangers to people entering open water: The cold, which can stop people in their tracks; currents, which are often undercurrents invisible from the water’s edge and can sweep even the most competent swimmers away; and a lack of information about what lies beneath the surface.
“These hidden dangers can be especially prevalent in rivers and canals, where there may be objects underwater that could harm swimmers, such as broken glass, tins, weeds or abandoned shopping trolleys.”
Coun Dave Ledger, deputy leader of Northumberland County Council, said: “Northumberland is a very large county which encompasses miles of rivers and coastline in some of the most beautiful settings, which local people and visitors are, quite rightly, always keen to enjoy each year when the sun comes out.
“We would like to remind people of the dangers, so that they can take the necessary precautions to remain safe at all times.”
Swimming in a river is more dangerous than swimming in a life-guarded indoor pool and people must be aware of the dangers before they take the plunge.
People are reminded to:
• Never swim alone
• Don’t swim after a heavy meal, drinking alcohol, or taking drugs
• Select your landing point before going in - it may be impossible to get out
• Always keep within your depth
• Look at the surface of the water, which may indicate currents and depth
• Don’t dive in, it could be shallower than you think or there maybe hidden underwater dangers
• Don’t swim near weirs, once caught in the undertow you have little chance of escape
• Beware of weeds. You can get entangled in weeds growing at the bottom of the river
• Beware of flash floods; some rivers can rise by three metres in just 20 minutes
• Beware of deep holes, fish hooks and rubbish; always wear shoes.
Bridge jumping, often referred to as tombstoning, is a dangerous craze that can lead to injuries ranging from twisted ankles to very severe spinal fracture. The outcome of these injuries can be paralysis or even death.
When at the beach swimmers should beware of which flag is flying as this will warn of any dangers. Here is what to look for:
• Red and yellow flags - lifeguards on patrol.
• Red flags - it’s dangerous to bathe or swim so don’t go into the water.
• Quartered black and white flags - the area has been zoned for surf crafts and Malibu boards. It’s not safe for swimmers and bathers.
• Children should always go to the beach with an adult and should be supervised at all times.
If you see someone in difficulty in the water, tell somebody, preferably a lifeguard if there is one nearby. Alternatively use your mobile or go to the nearest telephone and dial 999, ask for the fire and rescue service at inland water sites and the Coastguard at the beach.
For more information about water safety visit the website of The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.