People urged not to dive into lakes and rivers to cool off during heatwave

Fire and rescue service urges people to ‘float to live’ if they get into difficulties

By Stephen Briggs
Saturday, 16th July 2022, 10:00 am

Fire and rescue crews are urging people not to try and cool off during the heatwave by diving into rivers and lakes.

A red extreme heat warning has been issued for Peterborough for Monday and Tuesday, and an amber warning is in place for Sunday.

Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service is reminding residents to ‘be water aware’, and take extra care around open water this summer.

Residents are being urged not to cool off in lakes and rivers during the heatwave

Every year firefighters and emergency service colleagues are called to incidents where people, both adults and children, get into difficulty when taking a dip in open water.

Open water can often be deeper than expected with unanticipated hazards below the surface, and even if the weather is warm, the water can be much, much cooler than people expect.

The water may also look calm on the surface, but there may still be strong undercurrents, especially near locks, that could pull even the strongest swimmer under. There can also be rubbish, like shopping trolleys and rubble hidden beneath the murky water that you could become trapped in. There is often broken glass on the riverbed and cuts from this can sometimes lead to infections, as can other water-borne diseases.

A spokesman for the service said: “The most important thing to remember if you do get into difficulty in water is Float to Live. You should lean back, using your arms and legs to stay afloat, control your breathing, then call for help or swim to safety. In an emergency call 999 or 112 for the coastguard. If you see someone else in trouble near water, call for help immediately. Never try and carry out a rescue yourself, you could put yourself in danger too.”

Tips for staying safe for open water swimmers

For those who do plan on going for an open water swim, here are Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service’s top tips on staying safe and reducing the risk of getting into difficulty:

1. Join a club and gain from the experience of others.2. Choose a safe place to swim. If you’re going to the beach, look for lifeguarded areas. If swimming inland in a lake or river, avoid swimming near to locks and weirs.

3. Be visible. Wear a bright and neon swim hat or use a buoy.

4. Don’t stay in too long and when you get out have warm, dry clothes so you can dry off and get your body temperature up to normal.

5. Consider wearing a wet suit in cold water – as it will be much colder than you think.

6. Don’t go alone or make sure people know where you are.

7. Plan access and egress. Always walk into the water to allow your body temperature to adjust and to acclimatise and also plan a safe exit location in advance.

8. Wash your hands and face with clean water or using wipes and alcohol gel when you get out and before you eat in case of any contamination or pollution.

9. Download the free what3words app so that emergency services can help pinpoint your location quicker in hard to find areas.