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Safety whilst swimming

Everyone wants to enjoy themselves when outdoors, if your in a situation where things go wrong what can you do? Do you have the skills to be able to help in an emergency?

What precautions do you take before, during and after your swim.

So here are a few thoughts this is not me preaching merely sharing my knowledge gained over many years not only as a swimmer but as a white water paddler, open water swimmer and provider of safety courses


  • Tell others at home where you are going and estimated time of return. If you have no one at home, arrange to a friend as your contact text them once off the water so that they know your safe.

  • Be prepared, check tide times and weather forecast (most swimmers swim the hour before high tide).

  • Be seen, bright coloured hat, tow float as a minimum consider adding to your tow float a whistle, strobe beacon.

  • Swim with other people, for one it is nice to share the experience, two - less than three there should never been, now before you get on your high horses, I can hear people yelling at the screen now, this would be my advice particularly if location is remote. My justification for this is should something go wrong, one person, to stay with the casualty and one to go for help if needed. Even experienced swimmers can have off days.

  • If your a sea swimmer take advice

  • Register with emergency SMS service 999 response on your phone, god forbid you need help in an emergency in an area with no signal to make a call, you can text a 999 call and the signal will get through - here's how to do it. text REGISTER to 999 and follow the instructions.

  • Or download the RYA Safe Trx app uk, which can track you swim and alert your emergency contact if you fail to return on time.

Don't :

  • Avoid swimming solo, there is safety in numbers

  • Put yourself or others at risk, assess the situation, can you help in an emergency would you know what to do.

  • If in doubt don't go out. You are risking other peoples lives to save yours, the water is not going any where there's always tomorrow.

Take a look at the next section, this sets out some ideas for situations you are the casualty and you as the rescuer.

Your the rescuer

  • Stay calm, assess the situation, check for danger to yourself, then the casualty.

  • Raise the alarm call 999 or 112 - walking wounded you don't need an ambulance.

  • Remove the casualty from danger if safe to do so if not wait for help. If they are drowning can you reach them with an aid, tree branch, paddle, throw line, ring. You should only enter the water as a last resort, can you wade out to reach them, is there a boat nearby that you could use (only if safe to do so) only then should you think about entering deep water, take an aid with you, only enter if you know what your doing.

  • If they are having a panic attack, are they wearing a tow float encourage them to self-rescue by bring it to the front of them put their arms over the top, take some deep breaths, try to relax, stay calm and kick their legs to you.

  • Once out of the water, monitor and reassure the casualty, record vital signs, ask questions, what happened, name, are they alone ...etc pass this information on to the emergency services. Get the out of wet clothing, rewarm gently, if you have access to a group shelter then use one.

Your the casualty

  • Carry a survival kit in your car or kit bag - spare warm clothes including spare hat and gloves, first aid kit, sleeping bag, spare towel or bivvy bag, group shelter.

  • If injured but on dry land - treat, dress wound, remove in you need additional help but can still drive safely then do so, our emergency services are stretched thin already. If on the hills somewhere remote, and you raise the alarm be prepared it can take emergency services / mountain rescue hours to get to you. In this situation, if you can walk out then do so, if condition is serious and too sever to walk out, then treat the injuries, get out of any wet clothes, get inside sleeping bag inside bivvy bag try to insulate from ground. Cover with group shelter, if part of a group get everyone inside it will soon warm up.

  • stay awake, get someone to talk with you and monitor your vital signs, are you alert and responsive, watch for changes in symptoms or behaviour. If condition worsens report this change to emergency services.

If interested in learning more consider doing an outdoor first aid course, RLSS Water Safety Management course, or open water safety course.

1 Comment

Great advice & links Annie. Thank you.

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