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Stay safe near open water

In Bedfordshire in recent years there have been a number of deaths in rivers and open water. It may seem tempting to go for a swim in rivers, lakes and ponds, especially in the summer months, but there are hidden dangers which can catch even the strongest of swimmers off guard. Not all deaths have occurred in the summer however. It can be just as dangers to walk alongside a river during the winter, especially if you’ve had a drink.

The video ‘Beneath the Surface’, made by Royal Life Saving Society, shows real stories from families who have lost loved ones due to accidental drowning.

Understand the dangers

Cold water shock - your body’s instinctive reaction to cold water causing your heart to beat faster and you to "gasp" for breathe which can cause you to breathe in water and not air. This causes you to panic, making it difficult to stay above the water and to prevent taking further deep breaths when underwater.

Dangers under the water include rubbish or weeds that ensnare your feet and make it hard for you to swim, causing you to drown.

Hidden currents can easily knock a grown adult off their feet or drag them under the water’s surface.

Steep or slippery banks make it difficult to leave the water, especially if you’re tired.

Alcohol and drugs will affect your perception of your own abilities and greatly impair them and your motor skills making it difficult to swim.

Polluted water which if swallowed  would have adverse affects upon your health later on.

Over confidence - don’t assume that because you can swim in a swimming pool you can cope with the challenges of open water. There are no lifeguards to help if you get into trouble!!!

If you spot someone in trouble in the water:

Keep safe – DON’T put yourself in danger. You are no use to the person if you jump in and get into trouble yourself

Get more help – Shout for others nearby. Call 999 on your phone

Don’t lose sight of them – The Fire and Rescue Service will want to know where the person was last seen

Talk – Try to encourage them to make for a safe place

Reach – them with a rope, branch, paddle, belt or anything close to hand

Throw – A rope or piece of rescue equipment like a lifebuoy to help keep them afloat. Anything that floats like a ball or plastic bottle could be thrown to help keep them afloat

Encourage – Anyone who has been in trouble in the water to go to hospital. Keep them warm until the ambulance arrives


Following a series of incidents on Bedford River, Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service and Bedfordshire Police have provided throwlines to a number of businesses alongside The Embankment on the River Ouse in Bedford and the new development on River Street, Bedford.

Businesses where you can get throwlines are:

  • The Embankment pub,
  • Swan Hotel,
  • The Longholme Café,
  • Park Inn Hotel,
  • Albero Lounge,
  • Wagamamas,
  • Zizzi,
  • Premier Inn Hotel
  • Toast.

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