13 April 2015

Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service are urging people not to risk their lives by swimming in lakes, canals and rivers this summer.

As part of the Chief Fire Officers Association’s Drowning Prevention and Water Safety Week launching today (Monday 13th April), the service particularly wants to raise public awareness of the issue of Cold Water Shock, which numbs the muscles and can make it difficult to swim.

Breathing difficulties

Even on a warm day, Cold Water Shock can affect strong swimmers in open water and causes fatalities every year. Cold Water Shock, or Body Shock, is a physical response that can not only affect your breathing, but will reduce your muscle ability and can even lead to a heart attack.

The cold water causes the blood vessels in the skin the close up, meaning the heart has to work harder. Your breathing rate will increase dramatically (up to 10 times faster) and there may also be a “gasp” response which can cause you to breathe in water. All of this can contribute to a feeling of panic.

After a while the body will regain control, but it may be too late by then. Cold Water Shock is known to have negative impacts on victims’ chances of survival, even if they are rescued from the water.

'Hidden dangers'

Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service brigade manager Dawn Whittaker, who is also CFOA’s National Water Safety Lead, said: “Whilst reservoirs, lakes, rivers and other inland waters may look safe and inviting, particularly on a warm day, there are also hidden dangers below the surface that could make you ill, hurt you and – at worst – could kill you.

“We do not want to stop people enjoying water, but we do want to ensure that people of all ages are more aware of the risks that can be presented in and beside open water.”

Public awareness

Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service held a public water safety day at Stanwick Lakes last Friday to raise awareness of the campaign and will also be visiting schools to spread the safety message.

Safety messages will also be shared on the brigade’s Facebook and Twitter accounts and members of the public are being encouraged to support the campaign by sharing or retweeting the safety message.

To find out more about the campaign, visit www.cfoa.org.uk/CFOADrowningPreventionWaterSafetyWeek.