Safety warnings for wild swimmers in Northumberland as weather gets warmer

Prudhoe North councillor Angie Scott on the town's Front Street
-Credit: (Image: Copyright Unknown)

Officials in Northumberland have offered safety advice for wild swimmers during the summer months.

While the good weather may make it tempting to take a dip in the county's rivers, lakes and seas, councillors and Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service have urged people to take care and be aware of the dangers.

It follows the deaths of two teenage boys who got into difficulty in the River Tyne at Prudhoe last month. Coun Angie Scott, who got into difficulty in the same stretch of water as a child, spoke about her experiences in a bid to urge others to keep safe.

The Prudhoe North councillor said: "It was a terrifying experience and I will never forget it. It was a summer's day, my friends and I decided to go in the river at Prudhoe to mess around in the rapids.

"My parents weren’t aware of what I was doing. I got swept away and had no control over where I was going - the river was too fast.

"I started screaming for help, I was really panicking. Luckily, my friend was able to pull me to safety.

"The water looks inviting on a summer's day but it’s so dangerous. I would urge parents to talk about water safety with their children.

"Water safety awareness is a national issue and it’s something we should be addressing."

Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS) has issued advice to help the public stay safe when swimming outdoors. A spokesman said: "The water may look calm on the surface, but there can be strong undercurrents that could pull even a strong swimmer under the water.

"The water may feel warm on the surface, but just a few feet below the surface it can be icy cold. The cold water can cause shock or affect the stamina and strength of swimmers."

The service also issued a series of safety tips:

  • Never swim alone or after drinking alcohol

  • Choose your exit point before you enter water as it may be impossible to get out

  • Never let older children swim in unsupervised areas like quarries, canals or ponds

  • Always keep within your depth

  • Don’t dive in, it could be shallower than you think or there may be hidden underwater dangers. You could also get cold water shock as water is often colder just a few feet below the surface

  • Don’t swim near weirs, once caught in the undertow you have little chance of escape

NFRS said that if you spot someone in the water, you should call 999 and inform the fire service. Do not under any circumstances enter the water as this "usually adds to the problem", increasing the risk of cold water shock.

The person should be encourage to try and float, with rescue equipment or anything that will float thrown to them to help.

National safety advice provides five steps to know how to float. They are:

  • Lie back, tilt your head back with ears submerged and keep your airways clear, push your stomach up and extend your limbs moving hands and feet to help you float

  • Relax and try to breathe normally

  • Move your hands to help you stay afloat

  • It’s OK if your legs sink, we all float differently

  • Spread your arms and legs to improve stability

Coun Gordon Stewart is Northumberland County Council's cabinet member for communities, chair of the fire authority and representative on the Safer Northumberland Partnership. He also urged residents to stay safe around water.

Coun Gordon Stewart on Front Street in Prudhoe
Coun Gordon Stewart on Front Street in Prudhoe -Credit:Copyright Unknown

He said: "Northumberland is a large and beautiful county, its coastline is over 80 miles long, the Tyne is one of the many major rivers that passes through our communities in its 70 plus miles length. In addition we have numerous ponds in towns and throughout the countryside.

"The water may look inviting but it is also very dangerous with cold water shock and entanglement being two obvious dangers. Just because you are a competent swimmer in a pool does not mean you are immune to the dangers. Please adhere to the official advice being offered."