The Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK), the Drowning Prevention Charity, is urging people not to underestimate the power of flood water and to stay as safe as possible as flooding continues to hit the UK.

With dramatic accounts and pictures of the devastation that the flooding has caused, and with thousands of homes either evacuated or left without power, the RLSS UK warns people to be extra vigilant as there is a high risk of loss to life by drowning.

As the clear-up begins for some towns, forecasters have warned there may be worse to come as more bad weather is set for the middle of the week after the Met Office describes December to have record breaking rainfall, already, in some parts of the UK, with exceptional amounts of rain falling onto already saturated ground.

The Met Office still has 187 flood alerts issued across England, Wales and Scotland, including 21 at the most severe level, RLSS UK is urging people to take advice.

The charity says it is vital that people don’t underestimate the dangers of floodwater. Safety around floodwater could mean the difference between life and death.

Just six inches of fast flowing water is enough to knock an adult over and two feet of water will float a car.

The warning also comes after it has been reported that the Greater Manchester Fire Service rescued 1,000 people in less than 24 hours when water levels rose so rapidly yesterday (Sunday) that whole towns were cut off.

And, a man tragically lost his life after he drowned in Bridlington Harbour on Christmas Day.

RLSS UK’s Chief Executive, Di Steer, said: “The news of the death of a man who drowned in Bridlington Harbour on Christmas Day is devastating and our thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time.

“Drowning is not just a tragic outcome of accidents during hot, summer weather – winter weather can be extremely deadly.

“We have already seen serve flooding across the North of the country, especially in York, and with more heavy rain predicted across the country we are asking people to make sure that they take care during very wet weather.

“These conditions can be dangerous and create a significant risk of drowning if safety advice is not followed. Don’t take risks and certainly do not go anywhere near floodwater unless absolutely necessary.”

RLSS UK warns care should be taken not just around swollen rivers but near general floodwater on roads and pathways too.

“It is often tempting to take a look at rivers at their peak but it can be dangerous,” Di Steer added.

“But it’s not just these areas of water which can cause problems. Floodwater on roads and paths can be deeper and more powerful than it looks and people can easily fall or be knocked over.”

RLSS UK Ambassador, Jackie Roberts, lost her 20-year-old student daughter Megan after she fell into the River Ouse in York when walking home after a night in January 2014.

She said: “The terrible flooding in the North has seen many homes and businesses badly affected. It’s a terrible time for many people and a time to respect the devastating effect water can have. Please be careful. Avoid driving or attempting to walk through flooded areas without the help of trained professionals and be aware that cities such as York pose a particular hazard to those our drinking.”

“We would ask people to follow our simple advice to help ensure they and their families stay safe,” Di Steer added.

RLSS UK’s Advice:

  • Never try to walk or drive through floodwater – six inches of fast flowing water can knock an adult over and two feet of water will float a car
  • Never try to swim through fast flowing water or flood water – you may get swept away or be struck or caught up in an object in the water
  • Never allow children or pets to go near or play in flood water. It is hazardous and may be contaminated with chemicals
  • Keep an eye on weather reports for flooding in your area. Do not travel in heavy rainstorms unless absolutely necessary
  • Prepare a flood kit in case your home floods or you are trapped in a vehicle for any period– this can contain a change of clothing, wellies, waterproofs and blankets as well as a torch, charged mobile, radio, medication and a first aid kit and a list of useful numbers, including flood alert lines

Should your car enter floodwater:

  • Call for help, remove seatbelt and release any children from their seats
  • Turn on all the lights and sound the horn to attract attention (only if this won’t delay your escape)
  • If the water level is low – open the windows and stay in the car
  • If the water level is high – escape out of the windows, sunroof or doors onto the roof of the car. Stay with the car. If the car starts to move quickly with the water flow, get off the car, stay upstream from the car, and swim vigorously to safety
  • If the water is entering the car – escape out of the windows, sunroof or doors (breaking windows if necessary). Stay upstream from the car, and swim vigorously to safety
  • If you cannot escape, call and signal for help. Turn on all of the lights and sound the horn