Swimming at Christmas (13 Dec 2010)
We have already had a very cold start to this winter and thankfully we have not yet had any accidental drownings due to persons venturing onto frozen rivers or lakes, as regretfully they have had in the United Kingdom despite all the warnings. We may still have some snow and freezing weather to come over the coming months and we are asking parents to be particularly vigilant about their children‟s whereabouts, especially if near frozen ponds and lakes.
Christmas time traditions will see a number of people seeking recreational pursuits on the waterways and mountains of Ireland. There are always dangers associated with outdoor sports and activities especially close to water environs yet as in summertime, the same safety codes apply in protecting oneself from drowning. It behoves us all to avoid dangerous locations which could result in having to be rescued while swimming, surfing, boating, fishing, or just walking close to the water‟s edge.

Irish Water Safety supports 100% the Road Safety Authority in the simple statement not to “drink and drive”. Furthermore, we state that alcohol consumption over the Christmas period is a major factor adding to drowning accidents, especially if people are in close proximity to water on piers, quays, jetties, canal walks, riverbanks and coastal locations. Therefore Christmas Swims should be held without alcohol being consumed.

Last year, flooding and strong gale force winds highlighted the power of swift rising waters and the dangers associated with it. It is important that people do not drive through flooded roadways. In certain cases, flood waters can rise so fast that one can get trapped in their car and drown. If unsure in flood situations with fast running water, always seek higher ground.

Indigenous fishermen going to sea face extreme weather conditions at this time of year. Therefore, „extreme danger demands extreme caution‟ ”, warns Mr Nolan. All fishermen should wear lifejackets at all times and take care when out on deck especially in rough seas.
The cold winter seas can cause “cold shock” with hypothermia setting in within minutes. Many people attending Christmas charity swims have found that they are left without sufficient strength to climb out of the water due to the cold. Christmas day swimmers occasionally take chances beyond what is acceptably safe. If the sea conditions are bad then the charity swim should be cancelled and this is the responsibility of the appointed Safety Officer for the event. The Irish Coast Guard should always be notified of such charity swims that are taking place throughout the festive season and indeed at all times. Remember, if you see a person in difficulties do not attempt a rescue for which you are not trained. Make use of any nearby rescue equipment such as a ringbuoy and in the event of an emergency call the emergency services on 999 or 112 and ask for the Irish Coast Guard.

Contact: Irish Water Safety
Phone: +353 (0)91 564400
Email: info@iws.ie
More information at www.iws.ie
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