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Irish Coast Guard and RNLI issue water safety plea as callouts to open water swimmers increase

Over the past week, eight separate incidents arose in the Dublin-Wicklow area alone.

An RNLI Lifeboat around Howth Cliffs in Dublin
An RNLI Lifeboat around Howth Cliffs in Dublin
Image: Sam Boal via RollingNews.ie

THE IRISH COAST Guard and the RNLI is asking the public to familiarise themselves with key safety measures before participating in open water swimming following a number of incidents in recent weeks. 

In a statement today, the Coast Guard and the RNLI said that over the past number of weeks, there has been a noted increase in the number of incidents in relation to open water swimming, which had resulted in increased demands being placed on the groups. 

Over the past week, eight separate incidents arose in the Dublin-Wicklow area alone, with a number of other incidents being reported around the country. 

The search and rescue services said most people who participate in open water swimming do so safely but some, and in particular those who are new to the sport, may be unaware of important safety measures which can help them avoid getting into difficulty. 

The Coast Guard and the RNLI are now asking the public to familiarise themselves with key safety measures before engaging in the activity.

“At the outset, we are grateful that anybody who sees someone in trouble or thinks they may be in trouble, dials 112 and alerts the Coast Guard,” Gerard O’Flynn, Coast Guard head of operations said.

“Seasoned open water swimmers have a great deal of experience and do observe proper safety precautions. However the dangers this time of the year far outweigh the challenges that apply in summer time,” he said.

RNLI Water Safety Lead Kevin Rahill added: “Cold water and currents can tire a swimmer quickly and make it harder to return to shore.

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“Lifeboat crews are seeing a lot more callouts to people who are taking part in water based activities by themselves and while it is great to enjoy our beautiful waters, this time of year, the water temperature drops and of course it is dark for longer.”

The Coast Guard and RNLI have shared the following safety advice for swimmers, highlighting the dangers of swimming alone and the importance of being monitored from the shore:

  • Always check the weather forecast and understand the local effects of wind, tides and currents.
  • Never swim alone and have somebody ashore who is familiar with your plans and ideally can observe your progress.
  • Only swim in sheltered areas with which you are familiar and swim parallel to the shore.
  • Ensure that you are visible from the shore. Wear a brightly coloured swim cap or use a tow float to increase your visibility in the water.
  • Wearing a wetsuit is advisable to help stay warm.
  • Slowly acclimate to cold water to reduce the risk of cold water shock.
  • Get warmed up afterwards. Wrap up well in extra layers of clothing
  • If in doubt, don’t go out.
  • Tell someone else where you’re going and when you are due back.

If you see somebody in trouble or think they are in trouble, dial 112 and ask for the Coast Guard. 

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