As summer beckons, many of us will no doubt be clamouring for the nearest stretch of water at any given opportunity, whether it’s the garden paddling pool, a lake, the beach, or – on those duller days – an indoor swimming pool.

Given the lure of the water during the summer months, keeping safe in and around it is something that should be at the forefront of every mind, particularly with those who are more vulnerable or unaware of its dangers. The obvious case in point is parents and their children, however, it seems we are all not exempt from the unpredictable and hazardous elements associated with water.

According to the Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK), the drowning prevention charity, one person drowns every 20 hours in the UK – a statistic that the organisation is seeking to eradicate in line with the National Water Safety Forum strategy to reduce drowning fatalities in the UK by 50% by 2026.  In support of this strategy the City of Belfast Swimming Club has launched The Ripple Effect, an initiative supported by the RLSS UK, Speedo® and Northern Ireland charity Hope for Youth, to educate and equip schools about the valuable life lessons associated with swimming, firstly in Belfast and eventually across Northern Ireland.

Kenny MacDermid,  RLSS UK’s National Drowning Prevention Coordinator said, “RLSS UK is committed to a year on year reduction in drownings across the UK and Ireland and are delighted to be supporting this project. This excellent initiative equips the young people of Belfast with the key skills they need to make well informed choices regarding their own personal safety in and around the water.”

Staying safe in the water does of course still leave room for having fun and by following these guidelines the right balance is sure be struck.

Never swim alone

When individuals swim alone they run the risk of having no one to help them should they come up against any danger. If you find yourself in that category, then enlist a swimming buddy to look out for you (and vice versa). If there is no way of avoiding swimming alone then at least keep to shallow waters and never stray too far away from the water’s edge.

At the beach

If the weather affords you a day at the beach, one all-important guideline is to check the tides or currents before hitting the water – either by looking out for signs or checking with a lifeguard.  Once you know the water is safe enough, it is worth setting out a towel or some sort of marker on dry land to ensure the current never takes you too far away from eyesight of it.

An obvious yet important tip when swimming at the beach is to stay clear of any obvious cliffs or areas that may have rocks hidden underneath.

At the pool

Be it a public or private swimming pool, there is always the danger of a slippery surface. To avoid any knocks or slips, it is best to take your time when walking around the edge of the swimming pool. Ensure young people know from an early age not to run near a swimming pool. Also, make sure to observe any pool rules and never dive into a shallow end (no matter how tempting it is!)

At home

This might seem a less likely place for someone to fall into danger around water but when younger children are involved then the propensity levels increase and, if this is the case, it is best to err on the over cautious side.

As with bathing, children should be supervised at all times when playing in paddling pools. Additionally, a good habit is to empty any paddling pools of water after use and, where there is a pool outside and the risk of a child accessing it through a gate, make sure all entrances are locked to prevent any access.

As can be surmised, there are lots of dangers associated with being in and around the water. It is encouraging to see initiatives such as the City of Belfast’s Ripple Effect project providing the right support to prevent others falling victim to its risks.

Hannah English, teacher at Elmgrove Primary School which has recently trialled The Ripple Effect initiative, said: “Elmgrove is thrilled to be the first school in Northern Ireland to trial The Ripple Effect. After taking part in the programme’s initial classroom and poolside lessons, we have had great feedback from the pupils regarding their understanding of the coach’s key messages and have noticed a surge in their confidence in the swimming pool.  The Ripple Effect has particular importance for our pupils because of the current regeneration work being carried out in Flora Walkway along the Connswater Community Greenway, which is making the Connswater River more visible.  A number of pupils that walk to school walk past the river on their way to school so it is great that they are being given first-hand knowledge about water safety and lifesaving skills which are giving them the important tools to show responsibility around water.”