The Coast Guard and RNLI are calling on the public to exercise caution when participating in any activity on or near water during the Christmas and New Years period, and to be aware of the restrictions in place to cope to the COVID pandemic. With many traditional Christmas and New Year’s swims canceled, anyone planning this activity should check for up-to-date guidelines and ensure they have made the proper safety arrangements.
Both organizations thanked the public for their cooperation over the past year and in particular for the positive response by adhering to severe weather warnings. 2021 turned out to be a busy year with an almost 20% increase in calls, placing additional demands on search and rescue providers, especially volunteer Coast Guard and RNLI crews.
With increasing levels of open water swimming, both organizations are highlighting the risks of cold water shock, which poses a hazard to anyone entering water at 15 Â° C or below. The average sea temperature around Ireland at this time of year is between 6 and 10 Â° C, which can pose a risk of hypothermia, even for the most experienced open water swimmers.
The Coast Guard and RNLI safety tips for open water swimming are:
- Always check the weather forecast and understand the local effects of wind, tides and currents. (For weather and tides, see safetyonthewater.gov.ie)
- Never swim alone and if possible have someone on shore who knows your plans and can observe your progress.
- Swim only in sheltered areas that you are familiar with and swim parallel to the shore.
- Stay in your depth – know your limits, including how long to stay in the water
- Make sure you are visible from the shore. Wear a brightly colored swim cap or use a tow float to increase your visibility in the water.
- Wearing a wetsuit is recommended to stay warm.
- Slowly acclimate to cold water to reduce the risk of cold water shock.
- Then warm up. Wrap yourself well in extra layers of clothing
- When in doubt, do not go out.
- Let someone else know where you are going and when you will be back.
Irish Coast Guard Director of Operations MicheÃ¡l O’Toole said: “We would especially like to thank everyone involved in Search and Rescue (SAR) for their commitment and service during these extraordinary times, with a Special thanks to the volunteer members of the Rescue Services. People love to get out and about during Christmas and New Years. For those who have the opportunity to take coastal walks, remember to always stay back , stay dry, and this year, pay particular attention to the restrictions related to Covid.
He added: “It’s important to distinguish between the traditional Christmas fast dive and longer swims. Open water swimming at this time of year is for experienced participants only and never swims alone.
RNLI Regional Rescue Officer Owen Medland added, âOur wish for anyone planning a trip to the coast or a festive swim is that it be done safely. We urge everyone to be extra careful, understand the risks, and know how to stay safe before entering cold water. Follow the right advice for your business and always carry a call for help. ‘
He concluded: âAs we approach the end of the year, we would like to thank everyone involved in search and rescue around the Irish coast and in inland waters. These dedicated men and women, many of whom are volunteers, will remain on call during Christmas and New Years. ‘