Please don't be tempted to take a dip in rivers, lakes or canals

Fri 19 Jun, 2015

Please don’t be tempted to take a dip in rivers, lakes or canals, even during the current good weather.

That’s the message from firefighters on the eve of the Royal Life Saving Society UK’s Drowning Prevention Week, which starts tomorrow (Saturday 20 June).

Richard Priest, head of Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service’s community safety team, said: "Even good swimmers can be caught out by hidden dangers such as fast currents, deep holes, soft mud, weeds or rubbish. Any stretch of water, still or flowing, has the capability to kill.

"Every year, countless people suffer injuries or fall ill after swimming in the UK's inland waterways, and in some cases lose their lives."

Last year, two people died after going into the lake at Bletchley’s Blue Lagoon Local Nature Reserve, and a boy drowned in the River Thames near Marlow

Firefighters from Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes regularly visit lakes, rivers and other areas of open water where the public are known to swim to promote the message that the only safe place to swim is in a swimming pool.

Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service has Water Rescue Units (pictured below) based at Beaconsfield Fire Station and Newport Pagnell Fire Station. Last year, Buckinghamshire & Milton Keynes Fire Authority invested £30,000 in replacing the rescue boats at both stations.

The dangers of swimming in open waterways include:

  • Risk of drowning.
  • Risk of catching diseases including Weil's disease - any open wounds can become infected. 
  • Water can be deep with hidden hazards such as shopping trolleys, fishing hooks, broken glass or water weed.
  • Water stays very cold and swimmers can catch hypothermia.
  • Remote sites also make it hard for the emergency services to reach casualties.

Richard asked people to remember these safety tips:

  • The safest place to swim is in a supervised swimming pool. The water is clean, clear and warm, and there are lifeguards on hand if something goes wrong.
  • Warn your children of the risks, and know where they are when they are out playing.
  • Act responsibly near water, and never swim, even where allowed, after drinking alcohol.
  • If you see a swimmer is in difficulty or there is a risk of drowning, call 999 
  • At home, keep small children away from ponds and pools and make sure they are supervised in the bath.