Just going for a walk or a quick run doesn’t sound like an activity you wouldn’t return safely from. In fact, an organisation asked to help spread the message declined – ‘because walking is safe’. Yes, walking and running are safe but people need to be mindful if they are near water – no matter how safe they perceive their activity to be, the risks change. Not being aware is how you get caught out.
The WAID statistics speak for themselves. Not only are runners and walkers the group most at risk of accidental drowning, but this group has also seen a jump in the number of fatalities in recent years.
2014 138 (during 2014 113 cyclists died on UK roads)
Rivers have been identified as the body of water which poses the greatest risk.
Losing your footing, tripping or slipping can be fatal near water. If you are alone the risk is increased as it’s up to you to get out. Once you enter the water cold water shock can make it impossible for your body to cope with the water. Even the strongest swimmers would struggle – click here to see how Sharon Davies and Duncan Goodhew coped
If you are with someone who can raise the alarm and help you – safely and appropriately – you stand a greater chance of survival. In an RNLI commissioned study of fatalities in the UK and Republic of Ireland 2010-2013 70% of analysed coastal walking fatalities were alone at the time.
Safety advice for runners and walkers
- Make sure your walk or run is suitable for your fitness level
- Consider joining a running or walking group
- Be aware and take notice of any warning signs when running or walking next to water
- Stay clear of the edges – river banks and cliff edges may be unstable and give way
- Wear appropriate footwear and clothing
- Take a fully charged mobile phone and check signal strength, know how to use it and who to call in an emergency
- Look out for trip or slip hazards – pay attention to your footing
- Stick to proper pathways
- Don’t walk or run next to water if levels are high
- Make sure you know exactly where you are – consider something like an OS locate app for a smart phone or a map. This may mean no delay in help locating you
- Don’t assume just because you have walked or run a route many times before it is still safe
- Avoid walking or running near water in the dark
If you enjoy spending time near water please make sure you know how to help someone if they should fall in.
- Call for help – straightaway. Call 999, if you are near the coast ask for the coastguard, if you are inland ask for fire service and ambulance.
- The emergency services will need to know where you are. Accurate information can save precious minutes. If you have a smart phone and have location services or map tool enabled, this can help. If not look around for any landmarks or signs – for example bridges will often have numbers on them which can identify their location.
- Don’t hang up – stay on the line but try and continue to help the person if appropriate. When you have made this call shout for help from anyone who might be close by.
- Never ever enter the water to try and save someone. This usually ends up adding to the problem. If you go into the water you are likely to suffer from cold water shock which will leave you unable to help even if you are a strong swimmer.
- Can the person help themselves? Shout to them ‘Swim to me’. Keep any instructions short clear and loud. Don’t shout instructions using different words each time.
- Look around for any lifesaving equipment. Depending on where you are there might be lifebelts or throw bags – use them. If they are attached to a rope make sure you have secured or are holding the end of the rope so you can pull them in.
- If there is no lifesaving equipment look at what else you can use. There may be something that can help them stay afloat – even an item such as a ball can help.
- You could attempt to reach out to them. Clothes such as scarves can be used to try and reach or a long stick. If you do this lie on the ground so your entire body is safely on the edge and reach out with your arm.
- Don’t lean over the water– you may get pulled in.
- If you manage to get the person out of the water they will always need medical attention. Even if they seem fine drowning can occur at a later stage if water has already entered the lungs.
- If the person is unconscious you will need to check they are breathing. If they are not breathing they need 5 rescue breathes and then CPR (30 Chest compressions followed by 2 rescue breathes). Continue until help arrives. If the person is unconscious but breathing put them in the recovery position with their head lower than their body.
- If they are conscious try and keep them warm. If you can remove wet clothes and give them something dry to put on as they are at risk of hypothermia.