Water Safety

Last year London had the 4th highest amount of drownings in the UK.

The River Thames and other waterways are hot spots for activity, so even in London it's important you know how to stay safe when near water.

As a Brigade we attend a number of water related incidents and have ten water rescue specialist units across the city and two fire boats at the Lambeth river station.

Top water safety tips

Don't make a splash, stay safe around water. Always remember:

  • Don’t go into the water if someone else is in trouble – call London Fire Brigade or the Coast Guard
  • Never drink alcohol and then go for a swim or attempt to jump into water
  • Avoid walking/running near water on your own or late at night - it’s easier than you think to slip and fall in

What do I do if I see someone in the water?

If you go into the water to rescue people, pets or belongings, you could be putting yourself at risk as well.

If you do see someone in the water there are steps you can take to help them:

  • Dial 999 and ask for London Fire Brigade (and if on the Thames, the coastguard as well).
  • If you don’t have a mobile phone, shout to raise the alarm, or go and get help.
  • Try to give an exact location of where you are. Look around for any landmarks or signs; for example bridges will often have numbers on them which can  identify their position.
  • If a person is in trouble, keep talking to them, encourage them to stay calm and float on their back.
  • Keep your eyes on the spot where you last saw them so you can tell the emergency services when they arrive.
  • If there is life saving equipment such as a lifebuoy or a throwline nearby throw it to them. If not, throw anything that will float.

Float to live

The effects of alcohol

Alcohol was suspected or a confirmed factor in 1 in every 3 drownings.

Please remember:

  • Don’t enter the water if you have been drinking (that includes entering the water from any height).
  • Alcohol seriously affects your ability to get yourself out of trouble.
  • Keep away from the edge of open water, especially in the dark. You could easily trip and fall.
  • It’s best to stick together if you are out with friends – don’t walk home alone and always avoid routes that take you near water.
  • Watch out for your friends if they've been drinking. Don’t be afraid to tell them not to enter the water.

Cold water shock

Anything below 15°C is defined as cold water, and on average the UK and Ireland sea temperatures are just 12°C. Rivers such as the Thames are colder - even in the summer.

What is cold water shock?

Cold water can cause your body to go into shock no matter how fit you are, causing panic, anxiety, disorientation and loss of muscular control. These reactions can also cause you to gasp for air resulting in water being inhaled.

How to manage the effects of cold water shock

  • Take a minute. The initial effects of cold water pass in less than a minute so don’t try to swim straight away.
  • Relax and float on your back to catch your breath.
  • Try to get hold of something that will help you float.
  • Keep calm then call for help or swim for safety if you’re able.

Even if you think it is warm enough, please do not enter any body of water as many drownings every year are caused by cold water shock.


Tidal Thames Water Safety Forum Strategy

Pride branded fire boat on the Thames

Tidal Thames Water Safety Forum Strategy

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Water Safety booklet

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