London Fire Brigade

Brigade warns of open water danger as weather warms up

13 April 2015

We are warning of the hidden dangers of cooling-off in open water, as the capital's weather warms up.

There were 669 water-related fatalities across the country in 2013, which is two-and-a-half times the number of people that died in dwelling fires that year.

In London, over the last three years, firefighters have attended 136 incidents involving people in water and carried out 92 rescues.

During the summer months crews attend on average one water related incident a week and in the last three years there have been 12 water-related fatalities.

Drowning Prevention and Water Safety Week

To mark the start of the first ever Drowning Prevention and Water Safety Week, we are highlighting the hidden risks of rivers, lakes and canals.

The focus of this year's campaign is cold water shock, which causes a number of fatalities every year, particularly in young people aged 16 to 30, which was the age group most affected by water deaths in 2013.

Cold water shock is the body's response to suddenly being submerged in cold water and as people enjoy the warmer weather it becomes a particular danger, as people don't realise the air temperature is often significantly higher than that of the water.

"Open water has hidden dangers that can hurt you and at worse, kill you."

Assistant Commissioner, Peter Cowup, said: "Rivers, lakes and canals may look inviting, especially on a hot day and after a drink, but it’s important to realise that open water has hidden dangers that can hurt you and at worse, kill you.

"People often aren’t aware of the effect cold water shock can have on their ability to swim in open water. It can not only affect a person's breathing, but also their ability to move their muscles.

"Some moving water can look calm, but it may have strong currents below the surface which can leave even the strongest swimmers in danger.

"As the weather gets warmer, young people especially need to think about their behaviour around water and also look out for their friends. We understand the water can be great fun and we don’t want to stop people enjoying it, but it’s important to be aware of the risks."

Learn about our equipment

To coincide with Drowning Prevention and Water Safety Week, we will be using social media this week to highlight the different equipment we carry on our Fire Rescue Units, which are sent to incidents involving people and open water.

To learn more about the equipment used in open water rescues, follow our Twitter or visit our Facebook page.