— Public appeal to Stay Safe Around Water —
Water Safety Ireland is urging those planning a Christmas and New Year swim to get in slowly to help avoid cold shock and to get out of the water before getting too cold, to avoid hypothermia. It is also appealing to those unaccustomed to winter swimming to wear a swim cap, wetsuit and booties and to warm up fast after the short dip.
Charity swims have grown in popularity, yet some swimmers occasionally take chances beyond what is acceptably safe, finding themselves left without sufficient strength to climb out of the water due to the cold.
Cold winter waters cause ‘cold shock’ and hypothermia can set in within a short period. This can overwhelm the fittest of swimmers. Immediately before the swim, people should throw cold water on themselves and always ease into the water slowly, to accustom your body to the low temperature.
If you see a person in difficulty, do not attempt a rescue for which you are not trained. Make use of nearby public rescue equipment such as a ringbuoy.
Charity fundraising organisers should ensure that their swim takes place at known safe bathing places where there is public rescue equipment available. Lifeguards should be present to provide rescue support and the Coastguard and Local Authority should be informed in advance of the event.
Guidelines for organising charity swim events can be found at www.watersafety.ie/charity-swim-events/.
Water Safety Ireland is reminding the public to adhere to NPHET public health guidance. Charity fundraising organisers are advised to organise smaller groups of swimmers to avoid crowds gathering at popular swimming locations at any one time. Events should be spread out over the holiday period.
CHARITY SWIM GUIDELINES
- People organising these swims on Christmas Day, St. Stephen’s Day or New Year’s Day must ensure full compliance with NPHET Guidelines and that they provide comprehensive details of each event to the Irish Coast Guard and local Gardaí in advance of their event.
- Each event should have a Safety Officer appointed, who will advise those concerned on safety and have the ultimate responsibility for making decisions in relation to the swim being on or off on the day.
- If the seas are rough and weather deteriorates, they should defer the event to a more suitable day without question – if in doubt do not take a chance on running the event.
- Many participants will not have swum since the summer and the temperature of the water has now dropped considerably. It is a fallacy that alcohol will keep you warm when entering the water; in fact, it has the reverse effect and could kill you. No alcohol should be taken before or after the swim.
- Please use our Open Water Safety Leaflet to prepare for your swim https://watersafety.ie/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Open-Water-Swimming-Brochure.pdf
- Cold water can cause cold shock and hypothermia in minutes because the temperature of the water at low 6° Celsius in Fresh Water and 10° Celsius in Seawater. To avoid hypothermia, a rough guide for experienced open water winter swimmers is to double the temperature of the water, and that is the maximum length of time in minutes you should stay in the water if you are feeling well.
- Ensure that you have safe access and egress with appropriate shallow shelving beaches, steps, slipway or ladders as appropriate. People should be mindful that steps leading into the water might be dangerous due to the increased growth of algae in wintertime. Organisers must ensure that they have had the access and egress cleaned in advance of the swim to avoid slips and falls.
- Fancy dress outfits can seriously impair your ability to float – please do not wear when swimming.
- Swimmers’ remaining in the water for extended periods in a gesture of bravado is not acceptable and leads to hypothermia. Our message is ‘Get In, Get Out and Warm Up’, further advice at https://watersafety.ie/open-water-swimming/
Furthermore, thousands of people are at risk when walking by rivers, lakes and shorelines. Others are lulled into a false sense of security when visiting relatives living close to water hazards such as slurry pits, ponds, exposed drains and canals.
See our Christmas survival guide to staying safe around water this holiday season.