RNLI and Scottish Fire Rescue Service Share Dangers of River Swimming

Lifeboats News Release

There’s no denying that Scotland has been enjoying a heat wave of late and scenes of young people cooling off in rivers in towns across the country have been widespread.

A small girl plays in a river

Zackary Canepari

A small girl plays in a river

However the RNLI, which aims to educate the public about drowning prevention, is determined to share the potentially life-threatening consequences of ‘taking a quick dip’.

The RNLI’s Water Safety Lead for Scotland, Michael Avril is keen to share the following advice: “Rivers pose a particular risk to our young people and I hope parents will share this with their children. Any death by drowning is tragic and we’ve already seen too many this summer, our thoughts are very much with the loved ones of those who have lost their lives. Rivers can look inviting, like a great place to cool off, especially when you see your mates enjoying it or the sun is shining down however, the risks are all too real.

“Swimming in open water is very different to swimming in a pool. Unseen currents, cold water and waves, yes even in rivers or lochs, can make swimming or even just staying afloat so much harder. Even the strongest swimmers can quickly get out of their depth and start to struggle. There’s also the risk of becoming snagged on a hidden object such as a rock, tree root or even a discarded shopping trolley or bike.”

Alasdair Perry is the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s Deputy Assistant Chief Officer and Head of Prevention and Protection.

He said: “I would like to offer my sincere condolences and those of everyone at the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service to those affected by this weekend’s tragic events. They are a very sad reminder that Scotland's waterways can be dangerous, and we are asking everyone to take care and heed all available advice from us and our partners.

“We would ask that no-one swims alone and that, where you can, have the proper buoyancy and safety equipment. Never leave children or young people unattended and do not mix alcohol with swimming.

“We will be conducting more visits alongside our partners such as the RNLI to popular areas to engage with swimmers and visitors directly."

For those used to meeting up with friends on the banks of their local river or who have enjoyed taking a dip, the advice from the emergency services may seem to be overly cautious but as the RNLI’s Michael Avril says:

“Nobody ever thinks it will happen to them, that’s the reality. We just want people, especially younger people, to stop and think of the dangers. We all think we are immortal when we’re teenagers, we all like to take risks but we’re really asking people to be aware of the heartbreaking consequences of these risks. Be willing to be the person in your friendship group that asks ‘is this a good idea’, it could save a life!”

So what is the RNLI’s advice for staying cool this summer whilst also staying out of danger?

The safest way to experience water is at a lifeguarded beach or pool. The RNLI has eight lifeguarded beaches in Scotland and their lifeguards are always on hand to offer safety advice as well as to respond in an emergency. If you are unable to reach a lifeguarded beach, make sure you are aware of how to keep yourself safe:

· Research the local tide times, understand the risk of being cut off at any point by the tide

· NEVER use inflatables at the coast or in a body of water that is not a swimming pool, you can quickly be swept out to sea or out of your depth

· Don’t take risks

· If out paddleboarding or kayaking, take a means of calling for help such as a phone in a waterproof pouch and wear a lifejacket/buoyancy aid.

· Always tell someone where you are going and when to expect you back.

· If you do see someone in trouble in the water call 999 and ask for the Coastguard, they will get help to you.

If you are tempted to try a new water sport or something more adventurous such as coasteering, make sure you find a qualified organisation to help you, one which can supply you with both safety equipment and a trained instructor.

The message from the RNLI and SFRS is clear though, when it comes to water don’t take risks, it could cost you your life.

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Key facts about the RNLI

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

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