Brighton RNLI reminds swimmers and dippers of cold water risks

Lifeboats News Release

Brighton RNLI is urging anyone taking part in full moon swims this week to ensure they know how to take part safely.

Cold water shock is a very real danger for anyone entering water that is 15C or below while swim failure* and hypothermia can also pose a risk, especially at this time of year when the average sea temperature around the UK is just 6 to 10C.

Last winter, the RNLI saved the lives of five swimmers across the UK and helped a further 12 back to safety.

Brighton RNLI is issuing advice to swimmers ahead of the Full Worm Moon *2, which will be visible between Thursday evening and Friday morning.

Gabbi Batchelor, from the RNLI Water Safety Team in the South East said: 'We’ve seen a big increase in the number of people taking up dipping and open water swimming over the last couple of years, and it’s amazing so many people are feeling the benefits of a new activity. However, for many, this is their first experience of the sea, so we’re asking everyone to be aware of risks before they enter the water, especially at night know how to keep themselves and others safe, and to Respect the Water.

'With the sea temperatures still dropping and reaching their coldest around March, the effects of cold water, combined with weather conditions and any personal health issues should be taken seriously before venturing in. If it’s your first time in open water, we’d recommend you speak to your GP first, particularly for those with cardiac or underlying health conditions.

'There are a number of precautions you can take to help ensure you have an enjoyable and safe time, if you are going to be swimming under the full moon. Avoid swimming alone, consider going with others or joining a group so you can look out for each other. Think about the depth of water and if you can, stay in your depth. Acclimatisation is really important. Enter the water slowly and put drops of water on the back of your neck as you go in. Always remember FLOAT to live should you react to the cold water.

'Also taking the right kit is essential. We’d recommend wearing a wetsuit to keep you warm and increase your buoyancy, together with a bright swim cap and tow float to make yourself visible to others and use in an emergency. When swimming in the dark, put a torch inside a tow float so you can be seen.

'The most important thing to remember is if you are in any doubt, stay out of the water and if you or anyone else does get into trouble in or on the water please call 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard.

'Even the well prepared can find themselves in difficultly but having the correct knowledge and equipment can save lives. Taking a means of calling for help with you, such as a mobile phone in a waterproof pouch with a whistle, really could be a lifesaver'.

Our key safety advice to swimmers undertaking full moon swims is:

  • Light up your entry and exit points
  • Put a glowstick or preferably a torch inside your tow float so you can be seen
  • The air temperature is colder at night than in the day so make sure not to stay in for too long

RNLI safety tips for taking a winter swim or dip:

  • Be prepared – Check the weather forecast, including tide information and wave height. Take plenty of warm clothes for before and after your dip, along with a hot drink for when you come out of the water. Take a mobile phone in a waterproof pouch. Wearing a wetsuit will help increase your buoyancy and reduce the chances of suffering cold water shock
  • Never swim alone – always go with a buddy, if possible, to a familiar spot and tell someone when you plan to be back
  • Acclimatise slowly – never jump straight in as this can lead to cold water shock, walk in slowly and wait until your breathing is under control before swimming
  • Be seen – wear a brightly coloured swim cap and consider using a tow float
  • Stay in your depth - know your limits including how long to stay in the water and swim parallel to the shore
  • Float to live - If you get into trouble lean back in the water, extending your arms and legs, and resisting the urge to thrash around to gain control of your breathing
  • Call 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard in an emergency
  • If in doubt, stay out – there is always another day to go for a swim

Notes to editors

*Swim failure: As your muscles cool, your strength, endurance and muscle control reduces to the point when you can’t swim any longer so can’t rescue yourself. The point at which you can’t swim any more is called ‘swim failure’, and if you haven’t got out of the water or managed to get hold of a buoyancy aid (like a lifejacket) by this time, you will drown.

*2 Worm Full Moon: the third full moon of the year is called the Worm Full Moon and is so called because, as temperatures warm, earthworms begin to make their first appearance out of the ground.

· Interview available with RNLI Water Safety team member plus downloadable soundbite here

· Downloadable version of RNLI safety video for winter dips – Download here

RNLI media contacts

For more information please contact Lotte Ikonen on 07576870669.

For the latest RNLI safety advice on a range of activities visit: https://rnli.org/safety

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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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