River Safety Tips

1. Never Swim Alone

It is important to take care when walking on slippery or uneven surfaces around or in water. Conditions should be checked before entering the water slowly, feet first. Avoid submerged obstacles, such as tree branches and rocks.

2. Avoid Alcohol around water

Alcohol often contributes to drownings. It impairs judgement, encourages greater risk taking behavior, reduces coordination, impairs reaction time and reduces the effectiveness of CPR, should someone require it. On average, approximately 25% of adult drownings deaths each year involve alcohol, with 44% of these occurring near rivers, creeks and streams. A further 9% of these occur in lakes, dams and lagoons.

3. Wear a lifejacket 

Watercraft related drownings can occur if people do not wear lifejackets, consume alcohol and fall overboard, are not prepared for changing weather conditions, collisions occur or their vessels are not seaworthy.

On average, 51 people a year drown while using watercraft. After oceans and harbours, rivers, creeks and streams are the second most common location for watercraft related drownings to occur with an average of 11 drownings per year.

4. Learning lifesaving skills

Gain the knowledge and skills to administer first aid until medical help arrives. Anyone at any time may need to give urgent assistance and a Royal Life Saving First Aid and / or Resuscitation Course will equip you with the necessary skills.

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The Dangers

Inland waterways contain many environments where drowning deaths occur – rivers, lakes, dams, irrigation channels, water tanks and creeks have all been sites of drowning deaths.

The flat, still surface of an inland waterway can give a false sense of security. Currents, undertows or submerged objects – even in seemingly tranquil waterways – can prove to be very dangerous. Inland waterways are not patrolled by lifeguards, and should someone get into trouble, there may be no one there to assist.

Remember that water conditions can change very quickly. What may have appeared safe earlier could become very different a few hours later. Submerged objects, like branches or rocks, are often invisible from above the surface and present a real risk of neck and spinal injuries, especially to divers. Always enter the water slowly, feet first and never dive in. Be aware that cold water can cause hypothermia. Water can also be deeper than first thought due to steep drop-offs in dams or riverbeds.

People of all ages and ability drown in inland waterways. In 2011/12 there were 104 drowning deaths in inland waterways. Of these 75 occurred in rivers, creeks and streams and 29 in lakes, dams and lagoons.

Did you know that most drowning deaths occur in natural water environments - rivers, lakes, and dams?  Don’t be fooled by calm water on a clear day, many seemingly tranquil waterways can present dangerous hazards.

Q. Why do drownings occur in inland waterways?

There are many reasons drowning deaths occur in these areas.  The flat, still surface of an inland waterway can give a false sense of security.  Currents, even in seemingly tranquil waterways can prove dangerous.  Inland waterways are not patrolled by lifeguards, and should someone get into trouble, there may be no one to assist them.  Swimmers can also get panicked if they get caught in submerged objects, which are present in many of these waterways.

Q. Where do drownings occur?

A. In inland waterways there are many environments where drowning deaths have occurred – rivers, lakes, dams, irrigation channels, water tanks and creeks have all been the site of drowning deaths.

Q. What safety precautions can I take if I want to swim in an inland waterway?

A. Remember that water conditions which may have been suitable one day can change hourly with the current.  Submerged objects, like branches or rocks, are often invisible from above the surface and present real risk of neck and spinal injuries, especially to divers. Always enter the water slowly, feet first – never dive in.  Be aware also that cold water can cause hypothermia.

Q. Why are inland waterways dangerous?

A. Changing seasonal patterns, flooding and other effects of nature can cause inland waterway to change.  Remember if the water crossing is flooded don’t try to cross it, while it may look calm and shallow on the surface it is possible that the road that was there no longer exists.