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In association with ISA Logo Irish Sailing Christmas Day Swim Advice

21st December 2009 Christmas Day Swim Advice

Irish Water Safety has issued a warning to cover activities over the holidays including Christmas Day swims.

Christmas Charity Swims

The Christmas season in Ireland is a time when thousands of people around the country traditionally run sponsored swims in support of many charitable causes.

People organising these swims on Christmas Day, St. Stephen's Day or New Year's Day should ensure that they provide comprehensive details of each event to the Irish Coast Guard and local Gardai.

Each event should have a Safety Officer appointed, who will advise those concerned on safety and have the ultimate responsibility for making decisions in relation to the swim being on or off on the day.

If the seas are rough and weather deteriorates, they should defer the event to a more suitable day without question - do not take a chance on running the event. 

Many participants will not have swam since the summer and the temperature of the water has now dropped considerably.  It is a fallacy that alcohol will keep you warm when entering the water; in fact it has the reverse effect and could kill you.  Irish Water Safety strongly recommend that no alcohol be taken either before the swim or after the swim and also remind people that they may be in breach of the drink driving laws when driving to or from the event.

Cold water can cause cold shock and hypothermia in minutes, because the temperature of the water at this time of year will be below 50F/10C. 

Elderly people should be mindful that steps leading into the water might be dangerous due to the increased growth of algae in wintertime.

Swimmers' remaining in the water for extended periods in a gesture of bravado is not acceptable. The message is "Get In, Get Out and Dry Off well".


  • In a Marine Emergency call 999 or 112 and ask for the Coast Guard.
  • Supervise children at all times, but especially if you are on holidays abroad this Christmas.
  • Never swim alone in a pool unprotected by lifeguards, in fact one should always ensure that there are lifeguards on duty within the pool area.
  • Avoid cold shock and hypothermia on Christmas and New Year Charity Swims.
  • Do not engage in any water-based activities after the consumption of alcohol, remembering also road safety.
  • Always wear a Personal Flotation Device when boating or participating in other aquatic sports.
  • Be aware of Flood dangers and make to higher ground. 
  • Be careful when fishing from rocks or on the banks of rivers, or lakes.

Avoid flooded areas as fast running water and submerged hazards pose a serious threat.

This year, regretfully in many parts of Ireland we have experienced severe flooding, with global warming indications that we can expect more and more of these from time to time in the coming years.  Therefore, we must all take care and be conscious of the dangers associated with flooding.   Rising waters, fast flowing currents and dangerous hazards beneath the water, are all present with rising flood waters and with receding flood waters.   Move to higher ground immediately, and if trapped attract the attention and help of others through some form of communication.   The rescue services will respond as they have done with great honour this year in many parts of the country.   Previous flooding and strong gale force winds have highlighted the power of fast rising waters and the dangers of exposed drains and submerged objects that pose a hazard.  No driver or pedestrian should take a chance passing through flooded roadways, streets or indeed across fields.  In certain cases floodwaters can rise so fast (within minutes) that one can get trapped very easily with the resulting danger to life.   Always seek an alternative route to your destination across higher ground when flooding is in your path on transit.

Children at risk over Christmas at home and outdoors.

Sixteen children have drowned in Ireland in the last five years. Children are naturally curious about water and it only takes seconds for a tragic drowning to occur. If you are in your own home or indeed a friends home for a party, celebration or just visiting, remember your children and know where they are.    Within the twinkling of an eye they could be in danger near a garden pond, slurry pit or other water hazard.

Freezing Cold Weather this Christmas and after.

Freezing cold weather brings with it many dangers, but particularly if rivers, lakes and canals freeze over.    Never venture on to ice and warn your children of the dangers with regard to same.    Ice rescue is a very specialised type of rescue and in this country we are not expert in this field, because we do not have cold conditions annually as they do in the Nordic countries.  The consequences of someone venturing out on ice and going through thin ice and others who go to help, they run the risk of ending up in the freezing water also.    Best advice is not to venture out on ice and inform your children at all times of the dangers of doing so, particularly if we get a cold snap in the weather.

Fishing from rocks and in fast flowing rivers

Those fishing from the water's edge, especially from rocks and in fast flowing rivers are urged to take extreme care to stay safe.   Atlantic swells have claimed the lives of those unaware of such dangers and non-nationals in particular may experience very different sea conditions and not anticipate the dangers relative to those they experience in this country.

Holidaying at Home or Abroad this Festive Season.

Parents should be alert to the fact that when on holiday abroad the safety standards at beaches and in pools may not necessarily be the same as in Ireland.    Similarly when participating in aquatic activates be mindful of your safety and that of your children.   The simple rule is, if in doubt - stay out!   Furthermore, never ever swim alone in a pool and always make sure that there is a lifeguard present.

Make Christmas 2008 and the New Year a safe one both on the water and indeed on our roads.

Spare a thought for the Rescue Services both on land and at sea, over this Festive Season. They will be on standby to render assistance to those who find themselves in distress and requiring assistance and rescue.    Do not hesitate to call "999 or 112" and ask for the Irish Coast Guard if you think that someone is in difficulty on Irish waters.

Published in Marine Warning Team

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