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The Best Ways to Stay Safe in Open Water this Summer

With the weather warming up, the beer gardens reopening and the return of the rule of 6, it’s no surprise that Cumbrian beaches, lakes, waters and rivers are becoming popular weekend destinations again.

While we’re incredibly lucky to have so many bodies of water to choose from when we want to spend a hot day paddling, it becomes easy to forget that there are hidden dangers present that could put you, your friends or family in danger. In a matter of minutes, it can be easy for someone to get into trouble and unless you know what to do, a fun day out can quickly turn into a nightmare.

Before you go out swimming, assessing the water and preparing before you cannonball in, could potentially save your life. According to the Royal Life Saving Society UK, ‘85% of accidental drownings occur at open water sites’ so it’s really important you take care while out this summer.

But how do you assess water? And what should you do if someone gets into trouble? Would you know the right number to call to get help? If not, you don’t need to panic.

We’ll be going through some of the best ways to stay safe in open water, so you can go out and safely enjoy the beautiful spaces Cumbria has to offer this summer…

Disclaimer: Please follow government Covid advice when open water swimming. It is important that we minimise our risk of putting further strain on our emergency services, so please bare this in mind when you decide to swim in open water.

First of all, have a read through the risks of open water swimming that the Royal Life Saving Society UK urge you to be aware of when swimming. So, with the risks identified, here are the best ways to stay safe in open water.

1. Check the water

Does the water look clean? Is it often used for swimming? Is the water cold? These are all things to assess before swimming in open water. Jumping into unfamiliar water can result in cold water shock, which can be fatal. It’s best to gradually warm yourself up by acclimatising to the water temperature and avoiding jumping in altogether.

Water depth is unpredictable and jumping into shallow water or hitting rocks can result in serious injuries. If the water is close to a farm, this also might make it unsafe if agricultural by-products are in the water.

Make sure that the water you choose is safe for swimming in before you get in by looking for signs or using the internet to check it out beforehand. Some bodies of water may contain algae that can be harmful, so checking the water beforehand is really crucial.

2. Go with a buddy or go in a group

Going with a friend or in a group is much safer than going alone. Having other people help you if you get into difficulty could be the difference between life and death. Plus, it's much more fun if you're (Covid-safely) hanging out with other people.

3. Plan your trip

Choosing a body of water that has an active lifeguard or coastguard nearby, taking towels, warm clothes and the correct swimming attire can make a great difference to your trip and make it more enjoyable overall. Planning your trip is the perfect way to ensure you're as safe as possible when out in open water. You might want to take a buoyancy aid and some blankets too if you get cold quickly.

4. Know what to do in an emergency

The Royal Life Saving Society UK have a great toolkit you can access that will give you a quick rundown of what to do in an emergency- it’s so worth checking this out. Remember, some of these facts could save your life or another person’s life, so it’s worth taking out the time to access this free online kit.

If you’re swimming in Cumbria, here are some of the numbers to call if your friend/family gets into difficulty, or if you spot someone struggling who needs urgent help-

Emergency Services: 999

Whitehaven Coastal Operations Base HM Coastguard: 028 9147 5300

There are ways you can help someone in an emergency, which you can learn about here.

5. Don’t push yourself

Don’t swim too far out and stick within a safe distance of the shoreline. Make sure you avoid doing anything reckless, like jumping into unfamiliar water, doing stunts or anything that could potentially harm you or someone else. It is also important to avoid all alcohol and drugs, being under the influence could cause you to get hurt or drown, so steer clear of the beer to stay safe and sound of mind.

You don't need to prove yourself to your friends, peer pressure can often result in accidents, so learn your limits before you go. If you're a weak swimmer, don't push yourself out of your comfort zone and if you're a strong swimmer, avoid being overly-confident, open water is always unpredictable.

Learn more about how to act in an emergency and how to save a life by using the RLSSUK Toolkit.

RLSSUK Toolkit:

43% of people would jump into the water to save somebody from drowning, an instinct that has led to many further tragic incidents. Click HERE to learn how to act correctly in an emergency, with RLSS UK’s new online water safety toolkit - Lifesaver-Lifechanger. #lifesaverlifechanger #EnjoyWaterSafely #lifechangingskills @rlssuk

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