Key messages library

Plan for a great day
  • Know where you are going – carry a map/chart and compass and know how to use them
  • Keep your energy levels up – carry food and drink
  • Make sure your mobile is charged – but don’t rely on it for navigation and communication
  • Apply sun cream, wear a sun hat
  • Keep in touch – make sure you carry an appropriate means of calling for help should you need to
  • Know where you’re going – choose a suitable route and allow enough time
  • Check the latest weather and ground conditions before you set off – take advice, only attempt a route if the conditions are within you and your companions’ capabilities
  • Plan your passage – check if there are any hazards or navigational risks that you should avoid
  • Be sure you have a means of calling the coastguard and can indicate where you are to a rescuer should you need to
  • If it has a kill cord use it!
  • Check the latest weather forecast before setting out to sea or on the river
  • Regularly monitor coastguard maritime safety information broadcasts for updates while at sea
  • Check the anticipated currents and tidal predictions for your trip and make sure they fit with what you’re planning to do
  • Let someone ashore know your plan and make sure they know what to do if they become concerned for your safety
  • Make sure that everyone on board, or in your group, knows where the safety equipment is stowed and how to use it
  • If open water swimming, where possible, use an organised venue with safety crew and follow their guidance
  • Make sure you have permission to swim at your chosen spot
  • When open water swimming, make sure you can get out at the same point at which you enter the water or somewhere near
  • When open water swimming try to have a buddy with you.  If swimming alone make sure someone knows where you are going and when you are due back so that they can call for help if you don’t return on time
  • Remember other water users may not be able to see you when open water swimming; wear a high vis cap
  • Don’t swim near locks & weirs.  If a sign says no swimming and/or danger, don’t swim there
  • When open water swimming, avoid swans, especially during the nesting season
  • Don’t swim in stagnant water
  • Check the tide times before swimming in the sea or in estuarine waters
  • Before open water swimming cover cuts and abrasions, however minor, with sticking plasters.  Don’t swim if you have deep cuts
  • When open water swimming, carry a floating dry bag containing a charged mobile in a waterproof case
Know your limits
  • Be honest with yourself about you and your companions’ knowledge, fitness and ability
  • Check the latest weather and ground conditions before you set off -take advice, only attempt a route if the conditions are within you and your companions’ capabilities
  • If the weather or ground conditions are beyond your capabilities, or equipment, consider your options – it’s ok to choose a more suitable route or to turn back
  • When open water swimming, enter the water slowly and allow time for your body to get used to the cold
  • When open water swimming, know how far you can swim in the conditions for the day. You may need to swim less or closer to the bank or shore
  • When open water swimming, the colder the water and air temperature, the quicker you will cool down; the colder it is the less time you should spend in the water
  • The wind can push you off course when open water swimming, keep an eye on your exit point and make sure you can return to it
  • If the water is too rough for swimming, don’t get in
Know how and when to get help
  • If you find someone in trouble, call for help, don’t put yourself at risk
    Inland: In an emergency call 999 – ask for the police and then the Mountain Rescue
    Inland waters: In an emergency call 999 – ask for Fire & Rescue Service
    Inland waters: In an emergency call 999 – ask for Fire & Rescue Service
    Sea and coastal area: In an emergency call 999 – ask for the Coastguard
  • Carry a whistle – six short blasts in short succession, repeated at 1 minute intervals is the international distress signal (you can also flash your torch in a similar manner)
  • If you are at an organised open water swimming venue with safety cover then lie on your back and put one arm in the air and shout for help. If you have a whistle blow it to get attention
  • If you are swimming wearing a wetsuit, it will help you float, relax and wait for help
  • When open water swimming, carry a floating dry bag containing a charged mobile in a waterproof case, if you get into difficulty call 999 before you are too tired to get help
Don’t let your dog lead you astray
  • If your dog is chased by cattle remember to release it off the lead
  • If your dog is in difficulty, water or otherwise, call for help, don’t put yourself at risk
    Inland: In an emergency call 999 – ask for the police and then the Mountain rescue
    Inland waters: In an emergency call 999 – ask for Fire & Rescue Service
    Sea and coastal area: In an emergency call 999 – ask for the Coastguard
  • If your dog is in difficulty in the sea call the Coastguard – don’t enter the water after it
Let the experts show you the way
  • If you’re doing something new or going somewhere new why not go with a qualified guide/instructor or sign up for some training
  • Look for well described, promoted routes suitable for your ability – Use with links to National Park Authority websites, described routes
  • If you are not a confident outdoor swimmer or are new to open water get some practice and advice from your local open water swimming venue
The right gear’s a good idea
  • Know your kit – carry spares and be able to fit them
  • Apply sun cream, wear a sun hat
  • Carry a torch – it’ll save the day if you get caught out by the dark – six short torch flashes in short succession, repeated at 1 minute intervals is an international distress signal
  • Carry a whistle – six short blasts in short succession, repeated at 1 minute intervals is the international distress signal (you can also flash your torch in a similar manner)
  • Stay warm and dry; Wear walking boots, carry insulating layers and waterproofs
  • A fall might break your day – a good helmet and protective clothing might make your day
  • Look after your boat – know how to fix common problems and how to carry out basic maintenance
  • Understand the sources of carbon monoxide poisoning and the risks associated with it. Get Wise. Get Alarmed. Get out
  • Wear the right footwear – proper boating footwear allows you to move around without slipping
  • Register your Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon and/or Personal Locator Beacon – it could speed up your rescue and even save your life
  • Make a habit of clipping on to suitable points around the boat at night, when alone on deck, or in rough conditions
  • When open water swimming, a bright hat  (fluro green or  fluro orange are the best) and a tow float will make sure you can be seen by other water users
  • When open water swimming, carry a pea-less whistle so you can attract attention if you get into difficulty
  • When open water swimming in cold water, a wetsuit will help you stay warm and make you float more
  • When open water swimming, clear goggles will help you see where you are going underwater
  • Make sure you have something to wash your hands and face with after open water swimming.
  • When open water swimming on cold days make sure you have warm clothes, food and a warm drink after your swim
  • On hot days apply sunscreen and have a drink ready when you finish your swim. If wearing a wetsuit there is danger of overheating, so sit in the shallows and cool off before leaving the water
Respect the Water
  • Don’t get cut off by the tides – check tide times
  • Where possible choose a lifeguarded beach and swim between the red and yellow flags
  • If the beach isn’t lifeguarded, know how to spot and avoid a rip current
  • If you are caught in a rip, don’t try to swim against it. If you can, stand wade, don’t swim. If you can’t stand, swim parallel to the shore, raise your hand and shout for help
  • When seas are rough, wave watch from a respectful distance – 15cm of water can knock you off your feet
  • If you are in difficulty in the water don’t panic, stay calm; attract attention by raising your hand and shouting for help
  • Don’t mix water with alcohol
  • Don’t swim in reservoirs unless there are clearly organised swimming sessions
  • Don’t jump into pools unless you know there are no hazards beneath the water. Check first; pools change, what was safe last week could be dangerous this week
  • Wear a well-fitted, well-maintained and suitable personal floatation device (lifejacket or buoyancy aid)
  • If wild swimming, wear a high visibility cap and carry a floatation device
Float to Live
  • If you fall into water fight your instinct to swim until cold water shock passes; relax and float on your back until you can control your breathing
  • When open water swimming, if you are tired roll on to your back to rest, hold on to something that floats, signal for help if needed
  • When swimming in a river, float with your feet facing down stream and your bottom up – you can use your feet to kick off any hazards. Keep your bottom up to protect from contact with debris

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