Environment Agency warning: stay safe in the water

Coastal currents can make cooling off in the sea dangerous.

Coastal currents can make cooling off in the sea dangerous. - Credit: Archant

Warning comes ahead of another hot and sunny weekend - follow these tips to stay safe when cooling off.

THE Environment Agency and Fire Service are warning people to take care when trying to cool off in the water this weekend.

As North Devon enjoys the continuing heat wave, people may be tempted to take a dip to cool off in the sea or rivers.

But water can contain hazards, particularly around bridges, locks and flood channels, as well as dangerous tides along the coast.

Across the UK, 13 people have died in the last 12 days in rivers, lakes and ponds.

John Rowlands, for the Environment Agency, said: “The summer is always a busy time on our rivers, and we expect our rivers to be a focal point for a lot of people’s leisure time.

“We would like people to enjoy the water but to remember some basic safety points when out having fun.

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“We often see youngsters jumping off bridges along many of the rivers in the South West but there are hidden dangers in the water that could cause them to get into difficulties.

“We are urging parents to supervise their children closely in and around water and make sure they do not go into the water alone.

“Come and enjoy the river and all that is going on around it, but please remember to bring your common sense with you as well.”

The Agency has provided information to consider when planning your days out and holidays, whilst still having fun and being safe.

Their top tips include:

• Don’t jump or dive in as the depth may vary and there can be unseen hazards.

• Don’t go in near weirs, locks, pipes and sluices. These and some other water features are often linked with strong currents.

• Inland waters can be very cold no matter how warm the weather. Those going into cold water can get cramp and experience breathing difficulties very quickly.

Parents are also advised to teach their children to swim and to supervise them closely when near any open water.

Phil Martin, area manager for Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue said: “It’s natural for children and teenagers to gather near open-water locations to cool off, however analysis of drowning incidents suggest that most people have a poor level of awareness of safety issues in such environments.

“Anecdotal evidence suggests that people generally under-estimate the hazards presented by open-water and whilst the immediate dangers of drowning are apparent, guardians should also be mindful of the long term ill-health effects of Weil’s disease and other infectious diseases associated with rivers and canals.”

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