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Open water safety warning as NI basks in sunshine


NI Water have called for caution around open water areas during the summer months.

NI Water have called for caution around open water areas during the summer months.

NI Water have called for caution around open water areas during the summer months.

A safety warning for open water areas has been issued as Northern Ireland basks in summer weather.

NI Water issued guidance for families as the Met Office forecast top temperatures of 25 °C across the country today.

With the sunny spell set to continue this weekend the public were reminded of the dangers of reservoirs and other open water bodies.

With the pandemic causing more families to holiday at home and try new activities, NI Water said there was no room for complacency around water especially for children and young people.

Cathy Uprichard, Head of Safety, Health and Environment at NI Water, explained there was often real danger hiding beneath the idyllic surface of reservoirs.

“Understandably, a reservoir can look like the perfect place to cool down on a warm day, but while it may look safe, it can be very dangerous. You may swim well in a warm indoor pool, but that does not mean that you will be able to swim in extremely cold water.”

She said a shocking statistic from the Water Incident Database (WAID) showed that in almost half (43%) of accidental drowning deaths across the UK last year, people had no intention to enter the water.

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The causes included slips, trips, falls, being cut off by the tide or being swept in by waves.

“WAID also highlight that inland open waters, such as rivers, canals, lakes, reservoirs and quarries continue to be the leading locations for accidental drowning and unintended entry into the water accounting for 58% of deaths. This further emphasises the need to remain vigilant and treat our waterways with respect.”

The highlighted dangers include very cold temperatures, even in summer months, strong underwater currents and the unexpected depth of reservoirs.

Other hazards can be hidden debris or underwater risks like weeds and plants, pumps/mechanical equipment which can entangle you in the water.

Difficulty in getting out of the water from steep and slimy banks and a lack of lifeguards on duty also add to the risk of death.

“We want everyone to have a fantastic summer, but always resist the temptation to cool off in a reservoir or a quarry; a quick dip really could mean a quick death,” Ms Uprichard said.

If you get into difficulty, the National Water Safety Forum advise ‘floating to live’ by leaning back and using your arms and legs to help you float.

This can allow you to get control of your breathing before calling for help.

If you see someone in danger in the water call 999 or 112. If you are in a coastal area ask for the coastguard, and if inland ask for the fire service.

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