The Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK), the drowning prevention charity, is advising people to stay away from floodwater and some coastal areas as Britain prepares to be battered by a savage Atlantic storm.

Forecasters have warned that extreme waves up to 40 feet high and gales of up to 80mph could lash Western Scotland on Wednesday and Thursday bringing a risk of flooding.

Most of the UK is likely to experience severe gales on Thursday and Friday, according to the Met Office and as a result, severe weather warnings have been issued for most of Britain.

RLSS UK is urging people to follow its advice and listen to weather warnings to avoid the risk of drowning.

The charity’s chief executive Di Steer explained: “People need to remember that extreme weather and floodwater can be deadly and that tragically, drownings occur every year as a result.

“We would advise people to stay away from coastal areas where strong waves are predicted and not to underestimate the power of floodwater – and not be tempted to go and watch too close to the sea.

“People should never try to swim in these conditions – they may get swept away or be struck or caught by an object in the water.

“Don’t walk or drive through floodwater either. Just six inches of fast flowing water can knock over an adult and two feet will float a car.”

With falling temperatures and reports of snow in Scotland and northern England already this week RLSS UK is warning people to be careful near ice too.

“All too often people risk their lives by going onto frozen water, especially young people,” said Di Steer.

“Others get into trouble by rushing onto the ice after pets because they are worried about their safety.

“But not only is there a danger that you will fall through and become trapped but your body is likely to go into shock which can prevent you from getting out of water.

“People who venture onto frozen water not only risk their own lives but the lives of those who may try to rescue them too.”

RLSS UK’s Tips On Staying Safe:

What to do during flooding:

  • 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 rain storms 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

Frozen water:

  • Areas with frozen lakes, ponds, canals and reservoirs can be beautiful places to visit during the winter months but all too often many people risk their lives by venturing onto frozen water.

Take note of these three tips:

  • Teach children not to go on to frozen water under any circumstances.
  • Children and pets are particularly at risk when tempted to play on the ice
  • Pets should be kept on leads when near frozen water and owners refrain from throwing objects onto the ice for them to retrieve

What to do if you see someone fall through the ice:

  • Shout for assistance, get help also by phoning the emergency services (call 999 or 112)
  • Do not walk or climb onto the ice to attempt a rescue
  • Shout to the casualty to ‘keep still’ and offer reassurance to keep them calm
  • Try and reach them from the bank using a rope, pole, tree branch, clothing tied together or anything else which can extend your reach. When reaching from the bank, lie down to avoid being pulled onto the ice