South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue

South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue
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Water safety and drowning prevention

Drowning is one of the leading causes of accidental death across the country and, with our crews having attended several high profile and tragic South Yorkshire drownings in recent years, we take water safety extremely seriously.

As a service we support the National Fire Chief’s Council’s (NFCC) Be Water Aware campaign, as well as the Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s (RNLI) Float To Live campaign.

We also do lots of work ourselves, here in South Yorkshire, to educate people on the dangers of open water and how to swim safely.

Staying safe around open water

We fully support and encourage people to get involved with the various open water swimming groups operating in South Yorkshire. These groups swim together, rather than alone, in designated spots. They consider the weather and other factors that could impact safety, and take care to properly acclimatize to the water temperatures.

However, open water can be dangerous if it isn’t treated with respect. We actively discourage people from jumping into bodies of open water, we do not condone any kind of swimming in private reservoirs and lakes (such as the ones owned by Yorkshire Water) and we urge people with no experience to be extremely careful and take on board the Be Water Aware advice, here.

There are several dangers to simply jumping into bodies of open water:

  • You have no idea what’s underneath or how deep the water is
  • Jumping straight in can cause cold water shock – which can leave you breathless and temporarily shut your body down
  • There could be hidden currents that can overpower even strong swimmers

By joining an open water swimming group, and taking on board advice from agencies such as the NFCC and RNLI, you will be able to enjoy the water safely.

Advice to parents and guardians

During spells of warm weather, especially in the last few years, we have seen huge numbers of young people flocking to open water sites – such as quarries, lakes and reservoirs – for a dip.

Unfortunately, there are a number of examples in South Yorkshire alone where this has ended in a fatality.

If you have a child or young person who you suspect is spending their holidays and weekends at open water sites, please talk to them about how they can stay safe around open water.

Our key messages for young people are:

  • Never jump into open bodies of water – this can cause cold water shock and impact on your ability to swim
  • Do not ‘drink and swim’ – alcohol can significantly impact your ability to swim and get to safety
  • Don’t be peer pressured into swimming where you aren’t comfortable, or if you can’t swim
  • If you get into trouble, float to live – there is advice on this below
  • If a friend gets into trouble, encourage them to float to live and call 999 immediately

What to do if you get in trouble

If you get into trouble, you should float to live:

  • Fight the instinct to thrash around and instead lean back, extend your arms and legs
  • Gently move around, if you need to, to try and stay afloat
  • Stay afloat until you feel calmer and can control your breathing
  • Only then, shout for help or try and swim to safety

We have also produced this video on using a throwline to save a life:

This content was last updated on August 03rd, 2021