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Stay safe in or near open water

Lakes, rivers and beaches may look enticing, especially in hot weather. Find out what the dangers are if you're near, or choose to get in cold open water.

Fact - on average 40-50 children drown each year in the UK. They are more at risk during school holidays, and especially in hot weather, if they are near open water.

Open water in County Durham

Throughout the county there are many sites with open water, both inland and on the coast. For example:

  • rivers and streams
  • beaches
  • lakes and former quarries
  • fishing ponds

Activities which lead to people getting into difficulties are:

  • walking or running alongside and falling in
  • swimming
  • jumping into water

Dangers of water

You may swim well in a warm indoor pool, but that doesn't mean you can swim in cold water. Dangers of swimming in cold water include:

  • It is cold - cold water can kill you in less than a minute.
  • There may be hidden currents.
  • It is deep - and it can be difficult to estimate the depth of water.
  • There may be hidden rubbish under the surface that can trap or cut.
  • It can be difficult to climb out - banks can be steep, slimy and crumble away.
  • It may be polluted, which could make you ill.
  • There are no lifeguards.

How to stay safe near water

  • Look out for water safety signs or  beach flags to tell you when and where it is safe to use the water. Know what they mean and do what they tell you.
  • Never let your children go near water, without being accompanied by an adult. An adult can point out dangers or help if someone gets into trouble.
  • Never jump in or suddenly immerse yourself in cold water as the shock could kill you.
  • Never walk on ice or let a pet go onto ice. You do not know if it can hold your weight.
  • Learn how to help in an emergency - if you see someone in difficulty:
    • Shout for help and tell a lifeguard, if there is one.
    • Go to the nearest telephone, dial 999 and ask for the Police, or the Coastguard at the beach. 

Don't drink and drown

Fact - one quarter of all adult drowning victims had alcohol in their blood stream. 

Alcohol seriously affects your ability to get yourself out of trouble - if you've had a drink, stay away from water:

  • Don't walk home near water, you might fall in.
  • Look out for your friends, make sure they get home safely.

Report any concerns

If you live near, or visit any open water sites that do not display the correct safety signs, do not have the relevant safety equipment, or that you feel are unsafe, please contact us with your concerns.