Water Safety Advice As UK Reaches Record Temperatures
North Wales is known for its beautiful coasts, lakes, and rivers. Enjoy them by all means – just remember these water safety tips!
When we’ve been blessed with the beautiful weather we’ve had lately, there’s no doubt that we’re all keen to cool off. Many invest in ice cream makers, parasols, or state-of-the-art air-con devices. But most of us know the most satisfying way of cooling off is jumping into many of the UK’s open water spots. Even before water safety was a ‘thing,’ people have been doing this for centuries. Heading off for a day at the beach, local river or lake, or even hidden quarries provides fun for all the family – and rightly so!
Why everyone loves the water
Pictures upon pictures have been posted on Instagram and Facebook of Brits enjoying these human watering holes. It’s easy to jump on the bandwagon and it’s no wonder we’re all yearning for a cooling dip in nature’s finest pools. But what you don’t hear much about are the cases that ended badly – simply because people weren’t clued up on water safety.
As another heatwave is set to scorch the UK in August, we wanted to highlight how everyone can make the most of North Wales & Cumbria’s open water spots. All by respecting the water, and clueing up on water safety advice with the help of a local marine organisation.
Rhyl RNLI & Lyons spread the message of water safety
Our flagship park, Lyons Robin Hood, is located on the stunning North Welsh coast, mere minutes from Rhyl Beach. Thousands of holidaymakers come to the all-singing, all-dancing park each year to bask on the sand and splash about in the waves. As a coastal holiday park, we feel it’s our duty to help educate and inform our guests, team and locals on water safety. This is why we are working alongside Rhyl RNLI this season, to ensure the water is enjoyed by all and everyone is kept safe.
What will we be doing about water safety this year?
There’s lots on the cards this season! Lyons Holiday Parks are proud to be working in tandem with Rhyl RNLI, whose boathouse is a short walk away, to help spread the message of water safety. This means we will be posting out regular communications to ensure the information we share with guests and owners is accurate, authoritative and up-to-date.
Last year, Lyons Robin Hood registered as Water Safety Ambassadors, which means that the information we share is correct and in line with the advice from the UK’s leading lifeboat service, the RNLI.
Water Safety 101: the topics
Each day over the next 7 days, we’ll be dedicating a post on our Facebook and Instagram accounts to each of the following water safety areas:
- Saturday: Rip currents
- Sunday: Tides
- Monday: Cold water shock
- Tuesday: Lakes and rivers
- Wednesday: Jellyfish
- Thursday: Waves
- Friday: Quarries and reservoirs
Water safety advice for rip currents
In the UK, the majority of RNLI Lifeguard incidents involve rip currents. They are a major cause of accidental drowning on beaches all across the world.
What are rip currents?
Rip currents are strong waves that run out into the sea, and are known for quickly dragging swimmers and debris away from the shore and further into the water. The general speed of a rip current is 1-2mph, but they can escalate up to 4-5mph which is stronger than an Olympic swimmer!
Be especially careful about rip currents in areas of larger surf, but always look out for them in any body of water, including river mouths, and near piers, groynes and estuaries.
How to spot a rip current
The reason rip currents are so dangerous is because they’re not the easiest to spot. But if you see churning, choppy water on the sea’s surface that looks different to the rest of the waves, this could be a rip current to stay clear!
Some of you might say ‘but I’m a strong swimmer, I can swim through it!’ Never underestimate the water or overestimate yourself when it comes to water safety.
How to avoid one
The easiest and safest way to avoid a rip current is to swim on a beach with an on-duty lifeguard. This way, if anything does go wrong, a trained professional will be there to assist in danger. You should also make sure you swim in between the red and yellow flags. They aren’t just there to look pretty – they show you where the water is safest, and make it easier for a lifeguard to spot you in case of an emergency.
What to do if I’m caught in a rip current
- No matter how hard you swim, it’s pointless. Save your energy and don’t try and swim against a rip current.
- Can your feet touch the floor? If so, it’s essential you wade and don’t try and swim.
- If possible, swim in a parallel line to the shore and into a safer area of water before heading back to shore.
- Always remember to shout for help and calmly raise your hand in the air for the lifeguard to see.
Water safety advice for tides
A high number of RNLI response incidents are related to people getting cut off by the tides. Here’s all you need to know:
How can tides be dangerous?
Have you ever visited the beach at say 5pm, and the tide is right out leaving a lovely expanse of gold sand? So you visit again the next day at exactly the same time, only to find that the waves are lapping the prom? This is because tides have a reputation for being unpredictable, so it’s super important you regularly check the tide times before any beach outing. Whether you’re hoping to paddle in the swell or take the dog for a dip, checking the tide times can save you a spot of soggy bother – and your life.
There are two: different types of tides to look out for:
Spring tides: these range between high and low water is greater, which means at high tide the water comes in further up the beach
Neap tides: these have less variation, so at high tide, the water won’t come in as far.
Why it’s important to check the tides
According to the RNLI, the UK and Ireland have the biggest range in tide times – cool but calls for vigilance! Here are some facts to remember about tide safety:
- Before going to the beach: check the tide times with your lifeguard or by Googling the beach you plan on visiting.
- While you’re on the beach: remain aware of your surroundings and keep an eye on the direction of the swell
- Remember as fun as the beach is, the tide can come in very quickly.
- It’s not all flat: by this, we mean the water depth can change by as much as 10 metres throughout the day
- This means that as the tide comes in, walking up the beach towards safety might be riskier than you think as there could be deep spots
- Always be vigilant about coves and outcrops of rocks at low tide – you can soon become blocked off
Water safety – cold water shock
Never underestimate the effect that entering water below 15°C can have on the body – on numerous occasions, this has been followed by drowning.
You might think that jumping into the sea, or a river, or an abandoned quarry is a refreshing idea on a hot summer’s day. But as the general temperature of seawater in the UK and Ireland is 12°C, you can never be sure just how cold the water is.
What is cold water shock?
Cold water shock is when the skin’s blood vessels close, making it harder for the body to pump blood. This also means that the heart rate increases, working harder to sustain the body and forcing the blood pressure to rise. This is why cold water shock often causes heart attacks – even in the fit and young!
Another thing to remember is the effect of cold water on breathing. The sudden cold shock on the skin forces an involuntary gasp for breath, which changes your breathing rate uncontrollably and significantly. This causes a sense of panic and increases the risk of breathing in water directly into the lungs.
Scarily, it’s been known that as little as half a pint of seawater entering the lungs can cause the initial stages of drowning. Without urgent medical care, the outcome could be fatal.
How to avoid cold water shock
- Ease into the water: don’t attempt to swim straight away. Ease your body in bit by bit, and allow your body to climatise to the cooler temperature.
- Relax and float: keeping calm and not succumbing to fear can save your life. Take time to catch your breath and if you can, find something to hold onto.
- Keep calm: to avoid the shock and panic we mentioned above.
- Gear up: it’s worth investing in a wetsuit and definitely a floatation device like a life jacket if you’re planning on making wild swimming a regular thing.
Water safety advice for lakes and rivers
Despite how beautiful and calming lakes and rivers may seem, they can be highly dangerous. Lakes and rivers can often contain hidden obstacles that can limit your ability to move or even trap you. Not to mention the fact that freshwater is usually colder than seawater, increasing the risk of cold water shock.
What to look out for…
- Any change in the water temperature.
- If there is any thunder & lightning…
- Leave the water immediately.
- Take cover in an enclosed area for at least 30 minutes after the last thunderclap.
- Avoid open areas outside such as trees and metal objects.
- Choppy and pacy currents, waves and rapids.
- Underwater hazards, such as dams, rocks and debris.
- Drop off points that can change the depth of the water.
- Other people in the water and activities such as kayaking, boating, canoeing.
How to stay safe in and around lakes and rivers
- If you are to enter the water: enter unknown or shallow waters cautiously.
- Swim sober and with a friend!
- Make protection a priority: wearing a life jacket can make a significant difference to your safety. According to the RNLI, if you unexpectedly find yourself in the water, when canoeing or kayaking, for example, you’re four times more likely to survive wearing a life jacket.
- Access skills of water competency: before you or your family or friends think about entering the water, make sure to access your ability to swim. Are you able to able to enter the water safely, stay afloat, catch your breath, alternate positions, swim a distance and get out safely? If the answer is ‘no’, then you must not enter the water.
Check out the RNLI’s guidance on how to rescue someone from drowning here.
Water safety advice: jellyfish!
If you’ve visited our flagship park in Rhyl, the beautiful Lido Beach in Prestatyn, or even our popular Towyn resorts…well it’s likely you’ve come across a jellyfish! Back in the day, these stinging blobs might have been spotted here and there but currently, there are now thousands of them drifting onto North Welsh shores.
The reason behind this is a sad one: global warming means the gradual rise of sea temperature, which results in more jellyfish drifting over to UK shores where it’s increasingly warmer and more habitable. The types of jellyfish you’re likely to see are lions mane, moon jellyfish, compass jellyfish and blue jellyfish.
Why do jellyfish stings hurt?
Their tentacles have lots of microscopic barbed stingers in them, and every stinger has a small venomous bulb. When a threat is perceived, they use this venom to protect themselves. So when you swim, touch or brush against a jellyfish, the tiny triggers in their skin release the stingers. These tubes penetrate your skin and their venom is released.
How to avoid getting stung by a jellyfish
- Don’t swim at times when there are large numbers of jellyfish in the swell
- Always wear protective clothing when swimming in open water
- Be careful when sunbathing or playing on beaches where there are lots of jellyfish
- Swimming in a place known to have many jellyfish
What to do if you’re stung by a jellyfish
We’ve taken advice from the RNLI and now we’re fully in the know, we want you to be as well! Check out the video on our Facebook page for some quick and useful tips (p.s. it’s not what you’re thinking…)
Water safety advice: waves!
Waves add an element of fun to those calming days at the beach, whether you be surfing, jumping, or walking through them as they wash up along the shore. But, they can be extremely dangerous! Understanding how waves work will help to keep you safe…
There are three driving factors behind the power of waves:
- How powerful the wind is
- How long the wind has been blowing
- The distance the wave has travelled (this is known as the ‘fetch’)
Other influencing factors include how steeply the beach slopes and the surface of the sea bed near the beach. All these factors will affect the size and type of waves.
What are the types of waves?
Spilling waves are soft and consistent. If surfboarding is your thing, these waves are ideal for you! The RNLI advise starting off in shallow water, where you’ll find calmer and broken waves, before progressing into deeper waters where you’ll find unbroken waves.
Dumping waves are as unpleasant as they sound. These waves break powerfully, even in shallow waters, and must be avoided for your safety. Watch out for these waves when the tide is low, the force and speed at which these waves break make the water dangerous for beginners to enter.
Surging waves are the most powerful of waves. When waves break, they lose a significant amount of power and momentum. Surging waves, do not break and can knock you down rather effortlessly and sweep you away into deeper waters.
Tips to stay safe
Although it may seem fun to splash about in the waves, just 15cm of water can knock you off balance. When weather conditions are stormy and rough, the RNLI advise enjoying watching the waves from a safe distance.
Spot rips currents a mile off!
Rip currents are highly dangerous due to their power to drag people away into deeper waters, at speed!
Check out the RNLI’s tips on how to identify rip currents and what to do if you ever find yourself caught in one.
Know your limits!
Although the larger, choppier, and stronger waves may seem appealing to the average adrenaline junkie, thrill-seeker, and adventurer, it’s important to know your limits before entering the water and taking on the waves. If you have had little experience in the water, don’t just go and, quite literally, throw yourself in the deep end.
The RNLI advise if the water is rough to not go in. If the conditions seem to change whilst you are in the water, return to shore immediately and wait until the water is calm enough to re-enter.
It’s important to plan ahead and organise your trip to the beach as best you can! Packing the snacks and paddleboards can wait, before your trip make sure to…
- Check tide times to ensure it is safe to enter the water.
- Opt for a lifeguarded beach and only ever swim between the red and yellow flags.
Now you know what to look out for before entering the water, you can prepare for waves of fun along the coast and country!