Over the past number of weeks, there has been a noted increase in the number of incidents in relation to open water swimming resulting in increased demands being placed on SAR organisations including Coast Guard and RNLI. Over the past week eight separate incidents arose in the Dublin Wicklow area alone, with a number of other incidents being reported around the country. Most people who participate in open water swimming do so safety but some and in particular those who are new to the sport may be unaware of important safety measures which can help them avoid getting into difficulty.
Mindful of the increased level of participation in open water swimming and an increased demand being placed on SAR services, the Coast Guard and the RNLI are asking the public to familiarise themselves with key safety measures before engaging in the activity. Open water swimming is a relatively safe activity when done with the correct knowledge and some preparation. Also those who are new to the sport can protect their own well-being by observing some key safety precautions.
Commenting on the increase in activity Coast Guard Head of Operations, Gerard O’Flynn said, ‘At the outset we are grateful that anybody who sees someone in trouble or thinks they may be in trouble, dials 112 and alerts the Coast Guard. Seasoned open water swimmers have a great deal of experience and do observe proper safety precautions. However the dangers this time of the year far outweigh the challenges that apply in summer time.’
RNLI Water Safety Lead Kevin Rahill added, ‘Cold water and currents can tire a swimmer quickly and make it harder to return to shore. Lifeboat crews are seeing a lot more callouts to people who are taking part in water based activities by themselves and while it is great to enjoy our beautiful waters, this time of year, the water temperature drops and of course it is dark for longer.’
The Coast Guard and RNLI have shared the following safety advice for swimmers, highlighting the dangers of swimming alone and the importance of being monitored from the shore.
- Always check the weather forecast and understand the local effects of wind, tides and currents.
- Never swim alone and have somebody ashore who is familiar with your plans and ideally can observe your progress.
- Only swim in sheltered areas with which you are familiar and swim parallel to the shore.
- Ensure that you are visible from the shore. Wear a brightly coloured swim cap or use a tow float to increase your visibility in the water.
- Wearing a wetsuit is advisable to help stay warm.
- Slowly acclimatise to cold water to reduce the risk of cold water shock.
- Get warmed up afterwards. Wrap up well in extra layers of clothing
- If in doubt, don’t go out!
- Tell someone else where you’re going and when you are due back.
If you see somebody in trouble or think they are in trouble
Dial 112 and ask for the Coast Guard.
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