Drowning prevention charity issues warning as heatwave hits Sussex

The RLSS

The RLSS

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Families have issued a warning to people across the south coast as a heat wave hits Britain.

Families who have lost loved one have teamed up with The Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK), the drowning prevention charity, and issued a warning as people to flock to the south coast’s beaches this summer.

The charity has appealed for people to take note of simple safety messages to avoid a repeat of last summer’s tragedies when many lost their lives cooling off in unlifeguarded open water, not suitable for swimming.

Figures released from the National Water Safety Forum (NWSF) have revealed the peak summer months of July and August witnessed the most deaths in 2014.

Mike Dunn from the RLSS said: “Last year saw a tragic amount of preventable deaths as people flocked to open water sites not suitable for swimming.

“These sites included rivers, quarries, lakes and reservoirs – all of which have many dangers including very cold water, currents, obstacles and uneven depths.

“They look so inviting but can be deadly.

“Being aware of the basic principles of open water safety, combined with knowledge and understanding of the hazards, can increase enjoyment and significantly reduce the number deaths each year.

“Any drowning is a tragedy but the number of people who lost their lives last summer was not only extremely sad but extremely worrying.”

Figures show the age group with the highest number of fatalities in 2014 were men aged between 20 and 24, with 27 reported deaths.

Meanwhile, babies to 19-year-olds accounted for 11 per cent of deaths (38), of which more than half were teenagers aged 15 to 19 (21).

This latest warning comes following two deaths on June 27 when a 32-year-old man who drowned after getting into difficulty in the water in the Lake District’s Lake Windermere and 42-year-old Jason North who died in the water at Three Cliffs Bay, Swansea after entering the water because he thought his children were in danger.

Chantelle Aston’s brother, 15-year-old Richard Fellows, known to his friends as Porky, drowned on March 16 last year when he got into difficulties after swimming with two friends in river pool that forms part of the River Arrow in Redditch, Worcestershire.

Chantelle said: “With the weather reaching soaring temperatures, I know kids and young adults will be looking for ways to enjoy the heat.

“I would just ask them to think twice before going into open water and think what happened to Porky.

“He was a strong swimmer and it only took seconds for him to get into difficulty. Please, parents and children, listen to the advice which could save lives this summer.”

The RLSS has issued to following advice to people ahead of summer:

Don’t:

Swim at unsupervised (un-lifeguarded sites) including lakes, quarries reservoirs and rivers

Jump into the water until you have acclimatised to the water temperature

Jump into the water from heights or ‘tombstone’

Swim into deep water which will be colder

Do:

Swim at supervised (lifeguarded) sites

Swim parallel with the shore, where you can quickly get to safety

Swim with friends or family, so that you can help each other if you need to

Look for signs and advice about the specific dangers at the place where you are swimming

Think about what you will do if something goes wrong

Contact a reputable outdoor pursuits or coasteering centre if you want to take part in more extreme activities

Dangers of open water include–

The height of the fall or jump if tombstoning

The depth of the water - this changes and is unpredictable

Submerged objects may not be visible

Obstacles or other people in the water

Lack of safety equipment and increased difficulty for rescue

The shock of cold water can make swimming difficult and increase the difficulty in getting out of the water

Strong currents can rapidly sweep people away

Uneven banks and river beds

Water quality eg toxic algal blooms and industrial/agricultural pollution

If someone is in difficulty in the water -

Shout reassurance to them and shout for help and ensure the emergency services are on their way (call 999 or 112)

Without endangering yourself, see if you can reach out to them, extend your reach with a stick, pole, item of clothing, lie down or stay secure. Alternatively throw something buoyant to them such as a ring buoy, part filled plastic container, ball or anything that will float.

Keep your eye on them all the time and shout reassurance urging them to propel themselves to safety

For more information visit www.rlss.org.uk or follow the RLSS on Twitter @RLSSUK or Facebook www.facebook.com/RLSSUK

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