‘Don’t cool off in open water’ say fire chiefs as heatwave scorches Wokingham borough

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SWIMMERS and people looking for ways to keep cool in the heat are being warned to stay away from open water.

Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service (RBFRS) has issued a warning for people to avoid cooling off in open water, such as rivers, lakes and canals, as it could have tragic consequences.

In the UK, approximately 400 people accidentally drown every year. RBFRS attends numerous water-related incidents and is aiming to reduce the number of people who tragically drown by raising awareness of the everyday dangers of being near water.

One of the main dangers is cold-water shock, as although water can sometimes feel warm on the surface, just a few feet below it may be icy cold. This can have a dramatic effect on your body, such as causing you to breathe in water, make your muscles weaken, and can even cause your heart to go into abnormal rhythms, ultimately resulting in death.

Beneath the surface of the water there may also be unseen currents and reeds, which can pull even the most capable swimmers under.

RBFRS responds to emergencies on the county’s waterways and lakes using its specialist Water Rescue Unit. If there are any incidents on the River Thames, crews can use the unit’s Fire Alpha Rescue Boat. The unit will be on show (subject to availability) at an open day to be held at Dee Road Fire Station on Friday 12 August.

Jess James, Station Commander at Caversham Road Fire Station, where RBFRS’ Water Rescue Unit is based, said: “On a hot day it might be quite appealing to jump in for a swim to cool yourself down. However, don’t be tempted to cool off in rivers, lakes, canals and quarries; it can have deadly consequences.

“We have attended many incidents, which despite our best efforts have had devastating outcomes, many of which are made more tragic by the fact they could have been avoided. Our advice is very clear: be water wise, be water safe.”

If you encounter someone who has fallen into deep water please follow these simple steps:

  • Call 999 straight away and ask to speak to the fire service and ambulance
  • The emergency services will need to know where you are. If you do not know the specific location look for landmarks or signs – for example bridges will often have numbers on them which can identify the location
  • Never enter the water to try and save someone, even if you are a strong swimmer
  • Shout to the person in the water ‘swim to me’. The water can be disorientating and this can give them a focus
  • Depending on where you are there might be lifebelts or throw bags – use them. If they are attached to rope, make sure you have secured or are holding the end of the rope so you can pull them in.

For more advice, follow the water safe campaigns on Twitter (@CavershamRoadFS and @RBFRSofficial) and Facebook (RoyalBerksFS), or search for #WaterWiseWaterSafe and #BeWaterAware.


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