Stay safe near water this bank holiday weekend

Life guard

A Sunderland councillor is calling on people to stay safe near water as the city heads into the bank holiday weekend.

With the weather looking good for most of the bank holiday weekend, Councillor John Kelly, Cabinet Member for Vibrant City, is urging anyone planning on visiting the beach or riverside to take extra care.

He said: "With drowning the third highest accidental cause of death in young people in the UK, it's really important that young people, their parents, grandparents and the wider community are aware of the dangers and think about whether it's safe before they venture into the water.

"We're lucky enough to have some of the best beaches in the country along with some very attractive river banks too and we want everyone who visits them to have a fantastic time. But with the fine weather we're also reminding people of how they can help themselves and their families to stay safe.

"For example swimming in the sea is very different to swimming in a swimming pool and it's very easy to get caught in a rip current that pulls you out to sea or to get cut off, so it's important to choose a lifeguarded beach and to swim between the red and yellow flags.

"Rivers and stretches of open water can also look very inviting in warm weather. But there can be all sorts of hidden dangers just beneath the surface from weeds and hidden obstacles to currents which can pull even the strongest swimmers under.

"Sadly, we have had a number of fatalities in the city in recent years and we know all too well how easy it is to get into difficulty in the water, which is why we continue to work with partners like the RNLI and RLSS and the emergency services to promote water safety messages."

"No-one wants to see their loved ones go through the terrible loss that several families in this city have gone through in recent years so I'd urge everyone to follow the advice of the RNLI in staying safe.

Elliot Rogers, RNLI Water Safety Coordinator for the North East, said: "We have RNLI lifeguards on far more beaches than we originally planned after the easing of lockdown rules, but they still can’t be absolutely everywhere this summer. That’s why we are urging everyone to take extra care of themselves and their families whenever they are in or near the water.

"Many of the emergencies we respond to involve inflatables, which were the cause of more than 350 incidents nationally last year and many more already this summer. We strongly advise against taking them to the beach. Inflatables are not designed for open water and it takes very little breeze for them to be swept out to sea much quicker than you can swim or paddle back to the beach. What may seem fun at first can turn into an extremely serious situation, in a matter of seconds.

"If you get into danger in the water, relax and float to give yourself time to recover before swimming to safety or calling for help. If you see someone else in danger, please call 999 and ask for the Coastguard."

The latest top tips from the RNLI are:

Whatever you're doing:
- Be aware of the dangers, know your limits and don't take risks
- Go with others and look out for each other
- Make sure your phone is charged so you can call for help if you come across anyone who needs it
- Head to a lifeguarded beach and swim between the red and yellow flags
- Before going into the water you should always consider whether the conditions exceed your ability. Swimming in the sea is very different to swimming in a pool
- Always take a moment to acclimatise to the water temperature
- Make sure you have someone watching from the shore and that they have a way of calling for help if needed.

Near open water:
- Keep away from the edge, stick to designated paths and be aware of uneven, unstable or slippery ground
- Read safety signs and seek advice on local tides so as not to get cut off
- Avoid walking alone or at night and make sure you always have a way to call for help.

If you do see someone struggling in the water at the coast:
- Don’t go in after them, instead call 999 or 112 immediately and ask for the Coastguard.
- You shouldn’t enter the water yourself as you may also end up in danger without proper rescue training, equipment and experience.
- If you want to help, find something that floats and throw it to them, or shout instructions on how to float until rescue services arrive.

If you find yourself in trouble in cold water:
- Fight your instincts to swim hard or thrash about as this could lead to breathing in water and drowning.
- Instead, relax and FLOAT on your back, until you regain control of your breathing. A recommended floating position is to lean back in the water, extend your arms and legs and keep your airway clear.

Sunderland has had an active Water Safety Partnership since 2015 which works to raise awareness of the dangers of swimming in open water with an annual water safety programme.

This is led by Sunderland City Council and its members include the RNLI, the RLSS, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, Northumbria Police and Everyone Active

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