Keeping Safe in Open Water this Summer

Do you enjoy swimming and having fun with your friends in and around the water in the hot summer months? Would you know what to do if you or one of your friends got into trouble? If the answer is yes, you do enjoy it but no, you wouldn’t know what to do then read on! With the summer months ahead of us and, if last year was anything to go by, hot temperatures many of us will look to enjoy the weather by cooling off in open water.

Open water can mean the sea, a lake or reservoir, rivers, and canals. Around Manchester we have quite a few areas of open water. Some of these areas organise and encourage open water swimming such as Salford Quays and Sale Water Park. Open water swimming is a fantastic activity for getting fit, our mental well-being and for having. It’s essential that we know how we can keep safe while doing it.

In June each year the Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS) run a campaign called ‘Drowning Prevention Week’ with the aim of teaching people how they can keep safe. You may be surprised to hear that each year around 400 people drown in the UK and Ireland and of those 47% of them didn’t even intend to enter the water! Alongside that, even people who feel that they are able to swim can easily get into difficulty. That’s why the messages in this article and those promoted by Drowning Prevention Week are so important for everyone to know, remember and use.

What are some of the dangers linked to open water swimming?

First up is temperature! The cool water is inviting when it is hot outside, but it is incredible how much colder the water can be than you expect and also how quickly your body temperature can drop while you are in it. A swimming pool is normally about 26-31 degrees Celsius whereas the average temperature of UK and Irish waters is 12 degrees Celsius. You can get cold water shock which means you get short of breath, panic and easily get into serious trouble.

Another danger is the depth of the water. The water may be shallow at the edge of a lake or river but as you can’t see through dark waters it can get deep very quickly meaning that it is easy for you to get out of your depth, not be able to stand or reach the shore easily.

Other dangers can include murky water with hidden rubbish that can’t be seen, diseases that can be passed through the water and slippery bank sides making it hard to get out of the water.

What should you do if you get into trouble?

We already mentioned that the cold temperature of the water can lead to cold water shock. The most important thing that you can do if you get into trouble in the water, is float. The RNLI give these 5 important ‘float to live’ steps:

  1. Fight your instinct to thrash around
  2. Lean back, extend your arms and legs
  3. If you need to, gently move them around to help you float
  4. Float until you can control your breathing
  5. Only then, call for help, swim to safety or continue floating until help arrives.


What should you do if your friend gets into trouble?

It might be a natural reaction to go into the water after your friend or someone that you see who is in trouble, but this is not a good idea. It can make the situation much worse. You should call 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard if you are by the coast and Fire and Rescue if you’re inland.

So, how can I enjoy the water safely?

Choose a safe place where you can have fun cooling off with your friends. There are organised swimming open water swimming sessions at Salford Quays, Sale Water Park and Pennington Flash. There’s also an outside swimming pool close to Manchester called Hathersage Swimming Pool. Click on the links to find out more about these locations. If there is a lifeguard supervising the session, then you know it is safe. Make sure that your mobile phone is charged up in case you need to call for help and then parents/carers know where you are. Have a towel and warm clothing to put on afterwards.

If you want to find out more about open water swimming and Drowning Prevention Week, then follow these links:

Swim England Open Water

Drowning Prevention Week

Thanks for reading and have a happy, safe summer!