Water Safety Code

From tranquil walks along the beach, to more adventurous hikes and paddle sports, there are some fantastic opportunities for fun and safe experiences around the UK’s waterways.

Scotland has some fantastic landscapes to explore and whether you are planning to visit the coast or a trail in inland surroundings, it’s always a good idea to be prepared. You can do this by learning Water Safety Scotland’s Water Safety Code and staying aware of the weather forecast in your location, which is always subject to change.

The Water Safety Code is an easy-to-remember three-step code, and provides some life-saving advice that could help keep you and your family safe.

1. Stop and Think, Spot the Dangers

The weather can have a massive effect on how we spot and see dangers around water. Although some dangers can be really obvious, like a flooded river that has burst over onto a pathway, others are not.

Heatwaves, for example, can be a critical issue for water safety in the summer. This is because the heat can entice people to submerge themselves in water to cool down, which can be dangerous if initiated in a disorganised or unexpected way. Often it can lead to ‘Cold Water Shock’, which is an involuntary response that occurs to the body being suddenly or unexpectedly immersed in water that has a temperature of less than 15°C. It affects your ability to breathe, overwhelms your swimming abilities (even impacting the strongest of swimmers) and can lead to drowning.  If you are interested in learning more about Cold Water Shock, visit Water Safety Scotland’s webpage or watch the following video from Paralympic Athlete Toni Shaw as she discusses Cold Water Shock.

If you are a keen water enthusiast and love to experience beaches, rivers and lakes, some considerations are important to keep in mind in order to help keep you and others safe.  Following a spell of adverse weather, like flooding for instance, obscured objects can often be present in waterways.

Further still, a current’s pull can often be stronger than what a regular swimmer can manage. Therefore, always check your surroundings and make sure that you have the right equipment for the activity you intend on participating in, as well as having the right training and sufficient experience. For some helpful tips on safely partaking in specific sports like surfing or bodyboarding, get in touch with the National Governing Body or check out RNLI’s activity guides and RoSPA’s guidance on watersports.

For those heading to the beach, don’t forget to check the wind speed level of that location. Some activities and equipment are not well-suited to strong winds, so it’s important to consider leaving your inflatable gear at home. Inflatables are not well-suited to the coast as strong currents or gusts can rapidly sweep them to sea. If you get into trouble at the coast or in the sea, call 999 and ask for HM Coastguard.

2. Stay Together, Stay Close

Another essential call to action regarding the Water Safety Code is: ‘Stay Together, Stay Close’. If you are out and about near water, it’s always best to be accompanied by friends or relatives, and always inform someone you’re close with to let them know where you are going and the time you expect to be back. 

If you do find yourself unexpectedly in water, don’t panic and try to float by following these instructions:  lean back, extend your arms and legs and fight the instinct to swim. Then try to float until you have controlled your breathing and, once calm, attempt to swim to safety or call out for some help.

3. In an Emergency, Call 999

It is possible that you might come across someone else who is in trouble in the water. Please try not to enter the water as this will also put you at risk. The best thing to do is to call 999 and ask for assistance. But while you wait for the emergency services, look for a piece of public rescue equipment, such as a throwline. If none are available, look for something that floats that you can throw to the person while you wait for help to arrive.

Scotland and the rest of the UK have fantastic opportunities - both inland and coastal - to explore this summer. Have a fun and positive experience and remember to check the weather forecast and follow the Water Safety Code.