How to stay safe in water: Don’t drink alcohol before swimming and the ‘simple questions’ to ask

‘Floating killers’: RNLI urges people to not use inflatables in open water

Swimmers have been urged to be cautious in the water as Ireland experiences a heatwave over the coming days.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) has advised swimmers to “give a minute or two thought into what they are doing and where they will be going”.

Lisa Hollingum, water safety delivery support for the RNLI, said as people travel to beaches and lakes all over the country, they should ask themselves some “simple questions” to ensure their safety when entering the water.

“We just advise that they have conversations with their family first, and just to think what if I get into difficulty? Do I know to call 999 or 112 and call the coastguard? Can I describe where I am? Do I know where I am? If I’m on holidays, is it a beach I’m familiar with in the area?


“It’s just these little conversations that people need to be having, thinking about their safety should anything happen, they have the best possible chance of survival,” Ms Hollingum said.

A report by Water Safety Ireland (WSI) says 30 per cent of people who drowned In Ireland last year had consumed alcohol prior going into the water.

“We strongly advise people don’t consume alcohol before going into the water,” Ms Hollingum said. “If they do their water activity first and then if they want to socialise and perhaps drink that’s no problem. They don’t mix.”

WSI also advised that swimmers avoid using inflatable toys in open water due to instances where swimmers have got into difficulty with currents or the inflatable toy deflates.

“Never use inflatables in open water. They have the potential to be floating killers,” chief executive Roger Sweeney said.

Mr Sweeney advised that people “self-assess” the risk on arrival at beaches, such as “are there ring buoys, are there dangerous currents, are you staying within your depth, are you able to walk out of the water if there’s an issue? Are you always asking yourself are you within your limits?”

The safety organisations, together with the Irish Coast Guard, also issued a reminder to people about the dangers of cold-water shock. This can seriously affect breathing and movement and can occur in any water temperature below 15 degrees, they said.

Kevin Rahill, RNLI water safety lead, encouraged people to remember a “float to live” strategy if they get into trouble in the water. “This means leaning back and spreading your arms and legs to stay afloat, controlling your breathing, then calling for help or swimming to safety.”

In addition, the ESB issued a reminder to the public of the dangers and potentially serious consequences of swimming in any ESB reservoir.

“These areas are not appropriate for swimming because of the risk of deep and fast-flowing waters, changing water levels and uneven ground,” it said in a statement.

These waters include the reservoirs at Poulaphouca in Co Wicklow, Golden Falls and Leixlip in Co Kildare, Inniscarra and Carrigadrohid in Co Cork, the Ardnacrusha headrace and tailrace canal in Co Clare and Assaroe, Lough Nacung and Lough Dunlewey in Co Donegal, it said.

Jade Wilson

Jade Wilson

Jade Wilson is a reporter for The Irish Times