Get ready for winter blog

Don't underestimate the power of floodwater or the dangers of ice

Winter weather is beginning to take its grip on the UK and the  Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK) is urging people to stay safe during cold and very wet weather.

The drowning prevention charity is reminding people to listen to advice when it comes to entering floodwater and venturing onto frozen water as the colder, wetter months set in as these conditions can pose a real threat to life.

RLSS UK's Chief Executive, Di Standley said: "Winter weather often brings floods and, during the colder months, lakes, ponds and canals can freeze over. These conditions can be very dangerous and create a significant risk of drowning if safety advice is not taken.

"During flooding care should be taken, whether there are swollen rivers or general floodwater on roads and pathways. It is often tempting to take a look at rivers at their peak but this can be dangerous, and drivers may take risks driving through floodwater, unaware of levels of depth. It is vital not to underestimate the power of floodwater.

"When temperatures drop young people can be tempted to play on frozen water, risking their own lives and other people who may have to try and rescue them. There is the obvious danger of falling through the ice and becoming trapped but also the body going into cold shock and preventing that person from getting out of the water.

"We would ask people to know what to do in an emergency but, vitally, follow our simple, common sense steps this winter to help ensure they, and their families, stay safe and enjoy the season," she added.

RLSS winter safety


The risk of flooding from rivers or the sea tragically results in a number of  drowning's each year as a result of this weather. But, lives lost in times of flood are preventable by people listening to lifesaving messages on flood hazards and what to do before, during and after floods.

Tips for staying safe during times of flooding

  • Never try to walk or drive through floodwater - six inches of fast flowing water can knock an adult over and two feet of water will float a car.
  • Never try to swim through fast flowing water or flood water - you may get swept away or be struck or caught up in an object in the water.
  • Never allow children or pets to go near or play in flood water. It is hazardous and may be contaminated with chemical.
  • Keep an eye on weather reports for flooding in your area. Do not travel in heavy rainstorms unless absolutely necessary.
  • Prepare a flood kit in case your home floods or you are trapped in a vehicle for any period- this can contain a change of clothing, wellies, waterproofs and blankets as well as a torch, charged mobile, radio, medication and a first aid kit and a list of useful numbers, including flood alert lines.

Should your car enter floodwater

  • Call for help, remove seatbelt and release any children from their seats.
  • Turn on all the lights and sound the horn to attract attention (only if this won't delay your escape)
  • If the water level is low - open the windows and stay in the car.
  • If the water level is high - escape out of the windows, sunroof or doors onto the roof of the car. Stay with the car. If the car starts to move quickly with the water flow, get off the car, stay upstream from the car, and swim vigorously to safety.
  • If the water is entering the car - escape out of the windows, sunroof or doors (breaking windows if necessary). Stay upstream from the car, and swim vigorously to safety.
  • If you cannot escape, call and signal for help. Turn on all of the lights and sound the horn.

Frozen water

Areas with frozen lakes, ponds, canals and reservoirs can be beautiful places to visit during the winter months but all too often many people risk their lives by venturing onto frozen water.

  • Teach children not to go on to frozen water under any circumstances.
  • Children and pets are particularly at risk when tempted to play on the ice.
  • Pets should be kept on leads when near frozen water and owners refrain from throwing objects onto ice for them to retrieve.

What to do if you see someone fall through the ice

  • Shout for assistance, get help also by phoning the emergency services (call 999 or 112)
  • Do not walk or climb onto the ice to attempt a rescue
  • Shout to the casualty to 'keep still' and offer reassurance to keep them calm
  • Try and reach them from the bank using a rope, pole, tree branch, clothing tied together or anything else which can extend your reach
  • When reaching from the bank, lie down to avoid being pulled onto the ice
  • If you cannot reach them, slide something which floats, such as a plastic bottle or football, across the ice for them to hold onto to stay afloat whilst help is on the way
  • If the casualty is too far away, do not attempt to rescue them. Wait for the emergency services while calming and reassuring the casualty

Further information on winter water safety and rescue, or on the many life saving courses on offer by the RLSS UK.

RLSS logo

More tips and guidance on flooding from the Environment Agency.

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