Safety warning after increase in callouts to assist open swimmers

Safety warning after increase in callouts to assist open swimmers

In a joint statement, the Irish Coast Guard and RNLI said while most people who participate in open water swimming do so safely, some and in particular those who are new to the sport, may be unaware of important safety measures which can help them avoid getting into difficulty.

The Irish Coast Guard and the RNLI are appealing to the public to familiarise themselves with key safety measures before engaging in open water swimming.

It follows an increase in callouts relating to open water swimming in recent weeks.

In a joint statement, the Irish Coast Guard and RNLI said while most people who participate in open water swimming do so safely, some and in particular those who are new to the sport, may be unaware of important safety measures which can help them avoid getting into difficulty.

Coast Guard Head of Operations, Gerard O’Flynn said, “At the outset we are grateful that anybody who sees someone in trouble or thinks they may be in trouble, dials 112 and alerts the Coast Guard. Seasoned open water swimmers have a great deal of experience and do observe proper safety precautions. However the dangers this time of the year far outweigh the challenges that apply in summer time.”

RNLI Water Safety Lead Kevin Rahill added: “Cold water and currents can tire a swimmer quickly and make it harder to return to shore. Lifeboat crews are seeing a lot more callouts to people who are taking part in water based activities by themselves and while it is great to enjoy our beautiful waters, this time of year, the water temperature drops and of course it is dark for longer.” 

The Coast Guard and RNLI have shared the following safety advice for swimmers, highlighting the dangers of swimming alone and the importance of being monitored from the shore.

  • Always check the weather forecast and understand the local effects of wind, tides and currents.
  • Never swim alone and have somebody ashore who is familiar with your plans and ideally can observe your progress.
  • Only swim in sheltered areas with which you are familiar and swim parallel to the shore.
  • Ensure that you are visible from the shore. Wear a brightly coloured swim cap or use a tow float to increase your visibility in the water.
  • Wearing a wetsuit is advisable to help stay warm.
  • Slowly acclimatise to cold water to reduce the risk of cold water shock.
  • Get warmed up afterwards. Wrap up well in extra layers of clothing If in doubt, don’t go out!
  • Tell someone else where you’re going and when you are due back.

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