Heatwave: bathers warned of drowning risk following recent deaths

"Councils want to make sure everyone is safe around water, which is why we are urging people to follow our advice to be careful and vigilant to the dangers."

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Casual swimmers should be aware of the risk of drowning when taking a dip in the water during the hot weather, council leaders warn.

The Local Government Association, which represents 370 councils in England and Wales, has issued water safety advice after several people drowned while swimming in the recent hot weather over the past few weeks.

Last year 255 people died as a result of accidental drowning, including seven children under the age of nine.

With more people likely to be out near water during one of the longest spells of hot weather for many years, councils are urging everybody to be vigilant to the dangers of drowning, especially parents with children.

People are, in particular, being warned to be aware of the risk of cold water shock, which is one of the biggest causes of drowning. Even strong and confident swimmers can struggle and drown after jumping into cold and unpredictable seas, rivers, canals and lakes where temperatures can be as low as 15C in the summer - half that of typical swimming pools heated to 30C.

Cllr Simon Blackburn, Chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said:

“The recent deaths of those who have drowned are an absolute tragedy and the numbers who die every year from drowning are shocking.

“Councils want to make sure everyone is safe around water, which is why we are urging people to follow our advice to be careful and vigilant to the dangers.

“Many people will be tempted to cool off in the water during the hot weather, but even the strongest of swimmers need to be aware of the risks of drowning and cold water shock. What might look like a safe place to take a dip or have a swim could in fact be a danger.

“Our advice is always to swim in water that is clearly marked as safe and under the control of a lifeguard. Swimming in unknown water could lead to tragic consequences.”

Notes to editors

The LGA has published a water safety toolkit providing advice to councils on how to set up their own water safety partnerships to keep residents. This is available here

25-year-old man drowned and died in the River Derwent in Derby

16-year-old boy drowned and died in a lake in Nottingham

Man drowns in Redhill, Surrey

Cold water shock

Case studies on how councils are helping residents to keep safe in water

Durham County Council

Durham County Council runs the nationally award-winning ‘Dying to be Cool’ campaign with the family of a teenager who died of cold water shock, to raise awareness of this risk among 10 to 16 year olds. The campaign has delivered assemblies to more than 14,000 schoolchildren and reached well over one million people on social media through a series of awareness raising videos. It has also seen the council deliver water safety sessions for hundreds of schoolchildren, at an outdoor swimming pool and a beach activity centre. For more information about the Dying to be Cool campaign.

Broxtowe Borough Council

In Nottinghamshire, Nicola Jenkins has founded the OWEN network (Open Water Education Initiative). Nicola’s son Owen, aged 13, lost his life in July 2017 after saving two friends from drowning in the River Trent. The Coroner called him ‘an exceptional person who put the safety of others before his own in an act in keeping with his personality.’ Owen’s tragic loss inspired his mother Nicola to develop the OWEN network, which teaches children and young people about the dangers of open water and the importance of staying safe. Broxtowe Borough Council’s Chief Executive, Ruth Hyde, has joined the OWEN network and become Chair of the Nottingham Water Safety Partnership to redouble its efforts to improve water safety in the county.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council  

In Stoke-on-Trent, a 13 year old Ryan Evans died after he found himself in difficulty whilst swimming with friends at nature reserve Westport Lake. To respond to this, Stoke-on-Trent Council has launched a major water safety campaign called ‘Swim Safer’ to ensure that children stay safe during the summer holidays and beyond. Stoke-on-Trent Council is working in partnership with Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service, Staffordshire Police, the Royal Life Saving Society and media outlet the Sentinel. Glynn, the father of Ryan, has also supported the campaign as he is keen for the tragedy to be used as an example to other young people of the dangers associated with swimming in open water. As part of the campaign, hundreds of free swimming lessons are being offered at Fenton Manor Sports Complex in order to teach children how to be safe in and around water during the summer. The classes are aimed at all levels of abilities, including non-swimmers. Thousands of leaflets outlining the Water Safety Code are also being given out to children and young people throughout the summer. Find out more about the Swim Safer Campaign, the biggest water safety campaign to have taken place in the city.