18th June 2020
This week marks Drowning Prevention Week (12th-19th June) an annual event to raise awareness of the dangers and potentially life-threatening risks of water.
We speak to Ben Bates one of our Project Managers who specialises in maintenance schemes for reservoirs and dams. Safety is crucial to Ben’s role and he is passionate about raising awareness of the dangers of swimming in these waters.
Spreading the message on safety is more important this year than ever before as the current spotlight on outdoor activity means there’s an influx in visitors to beauty spots like reservoirs.
Here’s Ben’s top 10 reasons why you should never be tempted to take a dip in reservoirs and dams.
Cold water shock
As the reservoirs are so deep, typically only the top metre tends to gets warm. So even in the peak of summer, the temperature below the surface can be very cold and shock people into drowning.
Underneath the surface there is machinery to manage the water levels, this can create unknown currents as it draws water towards pipework or outlets. These currents aren’t always visible from the surface so people are unaware what they are jumping in to.
What lies beneath?
Often there’s lots of rubbish in reservoirs which isn’t visible from the surface. Recently we cleaned out a reservoir and found about 8 shopping trollies and an old motorbike in there. Currently there’s an increase in people having BBQs and drinking at the sites so we’re finding lots of broken glass and waste.
Don’t give in to peer pressure
We see a lot of young people, particularly teenagers swimming in reservoirs and there’s definitely a peak when the schools are closed. As a father myself it is really scary to see this as even the strongest of swimmers can so easily get into trouble.
Most reservoirs are in remote locations, this adds to the beauty of them but also increases the danger. Most sites have limited phone signal and it also means that it can take the emergency services longer to arrive if somebody did get into trouble.
Never go in after a pet
Every year several people go into the water or onto ice to rescue a pet. Often the pet finds its own way out and the owner tragically dies. If your pet does go in and gets into trouble, do not follow them, call the emergency services.
reservoirs are manmade structures and often there are steps in the bed profile leading to a sudden increase in depth that is not immediately obvious from the surface.
Risks of getting ill
Underneath the tempting surfaces, there can be algae and invasive species. If this is swallowed, it can lead to people getting ill.
Beware of the boats
Many reservoirs have sailing clubs, therefore there’s a risk of people getting hit by a boat if you were swimming.
Impact from rivers
Reservoirs and dams are often located close to rivers. Depending on the weather, the levels can vary meaning that even at quite shallow depths there can be fast flowing water.
Our message to people is to stop and think and always stay out of reservoirs and dams. It may look tempting and still from the surface, especially on a warm summers day, but in reality it can be very dangerous and life-threatening so it’s certainly never worth taking the risk.
Drowning Prevention Week is organised by the Royal Life Saving Society UK charity. Every year, a staggering 700 people drown in the UK and Ireland, with many more having non-fatal experiences which sometimes result in life-changing injuries.
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