Water safety campaign launched by Yorkshire's blue light agencies and other partners

Rising visitor numbers at country parks in the county have sparked warnings over water safety.
Credit: PA

Organisations across Yorkshire have come together to encourage people across the region to learn about the dangers of open water swimming after a spate of drownings.

All of the blue light services in Yorkshire along with the RNLI, local authorities, Yorkshire Water, the Canal and River Trust and others have signed up to the campaign calling on people not to swim in open water.

Several people have drowned in Yorkshire's waterways in the recent hot weather.

Richard Flinton, Chair of North Yorkshire Local Resilience Forum, said: "Open water can look very tempting, particularly on warm summer days, but it will often hide a multitude of hazards we cannot possibly see from above.

"Understanding those risks and taking a few simple steps, like knowing where is safe, sticking together, not jumping into cold water and making a point of reading any warning signs, could be the difference between life and death.

"‘If in doubt stay out’ – offers food for thought for everyone. We are pleased to back a Yorkshire wide campaign on this important issue."

There have been 180 water incidents in Yorkshire in the last 12 months, with 18 people losing their lives.

Some of the key advice being given by the campaign is:

  • Do not drink and dive – Alcohol badly affects judgement, swimming ability and body temperature.

  • Stick together – whether they swim with you or watch from the shore, always make sure you have someone with you who can call for help if you get into difficulties.

  • Read the signs – If the landowner has put signage up saying the water isn’t safe to enter please take notice. There could be dangerous currents, obstacles or poor water quality, even if it looks okay on the surface.

  • Acclimatise – cold water shock kills – As hot as it may be on land, water bodies in Yorkshire remain very cold all year round. Jumping or diving into cold water can cause a gasp reflex, which may cause you to inhale water, followed by rapid breathing (hyperventilation) which can lead to panic and possibly drowning. Paddling/wading gives your body the chance to adjust to the temperature and helps reduce the risk.

  • What lies beneath – Unexpected obstacles, machinery, strong rips or currents and hidden depths are all dangers to experienced and non-experienced swimmers alike.

  • If in doubt, stay out – if you’re at all unsure of the water temperature, depth or quality, or don’t know if there are hidden dangers (e.g. obstacles, currents), don’t risk it. Swim at a lifeguarded area instead.

People are also advised to only swim at the coast on beaches with lifeguards and to follow the RNLI's 'Float to Live' advice if they get caught in a current.

Nick Ayers, Regional Water Safety Lead at the RNLI, said: "If you do decide to go swimming – whether in open water or at a swimming pool – and end up getting into difficulty, the simplest but most important advice is Float to Live.

"Fight your instinct to thrash around. Lean back and extend your arms and legs. Float until you can control your breathing. Only then, call for help or swim to safety.

"If you see someone in trouble in the water, call 999 or 112. If you’re at the coast, ask for the Coastguard. If you’re inland, ask for the fire service."

Water safety messages will be shared throughout the summer using #WaterWiseYorkshire and safety messages will be shared on the participating organisation's websites.