Scottish Water is reminding people in Dumfries and Galloway to play it safe in or near rivers, reservoirs and lochs this summer.

Latest figures from the National Water Safety Forum (NWSF) show that in 2012, 371 people drowned accidentally across the UK, of which 43 included children and young people up to the age of 19.

Of the 371 drownings, the majority – 203 (55%) – took place in inland waters including rivers, canals, lochs/lakes, streams, ponds and reservoirs.

Bill Elliot, Scottish Water’s Community Team Manager for the area, said: “While it’s important that youngsters enjoy their school holidays and that people across Scotland take pleasure in the country’s beautiful lochs, rivers and reservoirs, it’s also vital that they stay safe.

“We are reminding parents to keep their children safe and asking adults to act responsibly around watercourses.”

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) is backing Scottish Water’s call. Carlene McAvoy, Community Safety Development Officer at RoSPA Scotland, said: “During periods of hot weather and school holidays, there is often a rise in the number of accidental drownings, which is why it is important to be extra vigilant around inland waters, such as rivers, lakes, lochs, quarries and reservoirs.

“The water can be a lot colder than expected, which can lead to a swimmer going into cold shock; in the worst case, a swimmer will inhale water and the drowning process begins. There may also be strong currents and underwater debris that you cannot see from the bank, so don’t go alone, and consider how you are going to get out of the water before you get in – be honest about your swimming ability.

“The safest option is to go swimming at properly-supervised sites, such as beaches, lidos or swimming pools, although we appreciate that not everyone can get to these locations.

“Accidental drowning deaths in all water have remained around the 400 mark for the past decade and 10% of these fatalities were children, who were swimming or playing in open water.

“We encourage parents and carers to discuss the dangers with their children and to remind them that children should never swim alone at unsupervised locations.”

Reservoir dangers

Reservoirs are man made features which, because of their purpose, have unique dangers such as dams, spillways (overflows) and hidden water intakes (underwater pipe work that takes water out of the reservoir) and other hazards common to natural bodies of water, for example reeds, strong currents, steep banks and deep cold water.

Also, as the majority of Scottish Water’s reservoirs are situated in remote locations, there is a lack of immediate assistance. For these reasons, and in the interests of public safety, Scottish Water does not encourage swimming or diving in any of its reservoirs.

Protect your pets

One of the biggest concerns with dog owners is when their pet dives into water, chasing a ball or stick. The pet more often survives such incidents, but the owners, who have attempted to save them, sometimes don’t. Dogs need to be kept on a lead if they are being walked near reservoirs and other bodies of open water.

If customers would like more information they can contact our Customer Helpline on 0845 601 8855 or www.scottishwater.co.uk/takecare. For more information on RoSPA visit their website at www.rospa.com.

Scottish Water is one of 10 partners involved in the Go Safe Scotland online education resource www.gosafescotland.com that has been developed to provide young people in Scotland with a variety of key safety messages, one of which is water safety.

Scottish Water’s advice comes as the Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS), the drowning prevention charity, launches its Drowning Prevention Week campaign from June 21-29 to drive home water safety messages on how to stay safe in and around water.

Di Steer, RLSS UK Chief Executive, said: “If everyone stopped to think about basic water safety and made some small changes to their behaviour, we are sure we could reduce the number of preventable, accidental drownings that happen every year in the UK.”

For more information on safety, or how to get involved, visit the RLSS website at www.drowningpreventionweek.org.uk.


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