The Christmas season is a time when people take part in sponsored swims in support of many charitable causes but this year Irish Water Safety’s message is “Get In, Get Out and Warm Up”.
Christmas day charity swimmers can occasionally find themselves left without sufficient strength to climb out of the water due to the cold. Cold winter waters can cause “cold shock” and hypothermia can set in within minutes, overwhelming the fittest of swimmers.
Irish Water Safety is also advising that if sea conditions deteriorate then the charity swim should be cancelled and if you see a person in difficulties do not attempt a rescue for which you are not trained. Instead, make use of any nearby rescue equipment such as a ringbuoy and in the event of an emergency call the emergency services at 112. No alcohol should be taken before the swim.
Safety Tips for Christmas Charity Swims
- Organisers should provide comprehensive details of each event to the Irish Coast Guard and local Gardaí.
- Each event should have a Safety Officer appointed, who will advise those concerned on safety and have the ultimate responsibility for making decisions in relation to the swim being on or off on the day.
- If the seas are rough and weather deteriorates, they should defer the event to a more suitable day without question – do not take a chance on running the event.
- Many participants will not have swum since the summer and the temperature of the water has now dropped considerably. It is a fallacy that alcohol will keep you warm when entering the water; in fact it has the reverse effect and could kill you. Irish Water Safety strongly recommends that no alcohol be taken either before the swim or immediately after the swim and also remind people that they may be in breach of the drink driving laws when driving to or from the event.
- Cold water can cause cold shock and hypothermia in minutes, because the temperature of the water at this time of year will be below 50°F/10°C.
- Ensure that you have safe access and egress with appropriate shallow shelving or ladders as appropriate. Elderly people should be mindful that steps leading into the water might be dangerous due to the increased growth of algae in wintertime. Organisers should ensure that slipways or steps have been cleaned of slime, weed and algae. Contact your Local Authority to have this completed.
- Swimmers’ remaining in the water for extended periods in a gesture of bravado is not acceptable. The message is “Get In, Get Out and Warm Up”.
For more information on staying safe in the water this Christmas visit www.iws.ie