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Safety around water
Around 315 people accidentally drown in the UK each year. And statistics show that 50% of people who drown had no intention of entering the water.
Here’s what to do if you fall into deep water:
- lie on your back and float
- resist the instinct to panic or swim
- lie back and keep your airways clear, push your stomach up and extend your limbs, moving hands and feet to help you float
- try to take control of the effects of cold water shock, such as the gasping reflex. Once your breathing is controlled call for help and, if possible, try making your way to safety.
What to do if someone falls into deep water:
- call 999 and ask for the fire service. If you don’t have a phone, shout for help – but do not enter the water
- encourage the person in the water to try to float on their back – and, if there’s rescue equipment nearby, throw it to them
- never enter the water to try to save someone – you could well suffer from cold water shock yourself, which will leave you unable to help even if you’re a strong swimmer.
Be careful around water if you’ve been drinking
Sixty-four people aged 15-29 drowned in 2016. Twenty of them had alcohol in their system. Avoid walking near water even if the path is lit – in the dark you may not see trip hazards or the water’s edge.
For more information on water safety, the RLSS has some great resources.
Of all drownings in the UK, 85% happen in open water such as rivers, canals, lakes, quarries and reservoirs. You might be tempted to go for a dip to cool off but, whilst it might be warm out of the water, the temperature beneath the surface can be so cold it will stop your muscles from working properly.
Don’t swim at unsupervised (un-lifeguarded) sites including lakes, quarries, reservoirs and rivers. They’re not suitable for swimming.
Never jump or dive straight into open water. Under the surface could be currents, unknown depths, hazardous objects or pollution – all of which may stop you from being able to swim or get to safety.
If you still decide to enter the water and you start to feel cold, you must get out. Hypothermia will reduce your muscle strength and ability to swim.
Before you get in, make sure you’re familiar with the area including signs and advice, and think about what you might do if things go wrong. If you can see fast-flowing water, DON’T get in – currents can quickly sweep people away.
Driving through flood water can be very dangerous. Just a small amount of water can stop your engine. If you do become stranded, don’t try to get out of your vehicle in fast-flowing water. Call 999 and ask for the fire service.
If you can leave your vehicle safely, do so slowly and carefully contact your roadside recovery provider when you’re safe. The fire service does not assist in the recovery of vehicles from water.
Flooding in your home
If you have a flood in your home:
- where it’s safe, and you can do so without standing in the water yourself, try to isolate (turn off) your electrics
- for flooding caused by a burst pipe inside the property, turn off your household water at the stopcock (this is often under your kitchen sink)
- if a pipe is leaking or has burst in your home, call an emergency plumber as soon as possible. We do not assist with plumbing issues
- if flooding is from a burst water main, river or canal flood, you should contact your local council for advice and help
- at any time you genuinely believe your life to be in danger because of a flood inside or outside your home, dial 999 and ask for the fire service
If you are suffering from prolonged flooding to your home or business, call Floodline
Although not common in the West Midlands, boat fires do happen on open water and canals in the region. Often, the same safety advice for the home will apply on a boat, so do make sure you visit our home safety area, too.
Here are some extra safety tips especially for boats:
- fit a gas and petrol vapour detector alarm in the bilge, and even in the cabin space, to give you early warnings of dangerous build-ups of explosive gases
- before you go to bed or leave the boat, check all appliances are turned off and, if possible, close the valve on the LPG cylinders
- always know your location so you can tell us where you are in an emergency
- refuel outboard engines or generators well away from the boat where possible
- take care when refuelling – ensure you turn off the engine and any cooking before handling fuel
- fit a CO alarm to alert you to poisonous carbon monoxide, ensuring it’s suitable for marine use and meets the EN50291-2 standard.
For more advice around boat fire safety routines, maintenance, electrical safety and carbon monoxide, go to http://www.boatsafetyscheme.org/fire