The Ultimate Water Safety Guide for Parents

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water safety on inland waterways

As an island nation we are surrounded by water. We also have an abundance of inland waterways, canals, lakes, rivers, reservoirs, disused quarries, swimming pools and other places where children, teens and adults visit to swim, fish, paddle or stroll along beside. It can be all too easy to get into difficulties in water, not just while we are out and about, but also around the home, so we have teamed up with Irish Water Safety to bring you The Ultimate Water Safety Guide for Parents to ensure we gain a better understanding of the dangers and stay safe. 

Irish Water Safety Tips Schools Out

Irish Water Safety work tirelessly to educate people about the dangers of water, how to be water safe and what to do if someone gets into difficulties in water.

They run lifesaving and water safety courses around the country and their volunteer teach a swimming and lifesaving program for children and teens at outdoor venues during the summer months.

In addition Irish Water Safety train the Lifeguards that patrol our Lifeguarded beaches & waterways and make hundreds of rescues every summer.

IWS PAWS Irish Water Safety

For school-going children check out their PAWS program designed to teach every child in the classroom basic water safety skills.

The Ultimate Water Safety Guide

How to Help if Someone is in Trouble in Water

If you see someone in difficulty these simple steps may save a life:

  • Shout to the casualty and encourage them to shore. This may orientate them just enough.
  • Reach out with a long object such as a branch or a piece of clothing but do not enter the water yourself.
  • Throw a ringbouy or any floating object and call 112 for the coast guard.

Always report a missing ringbuoy if you notice it while out and about.

Safe Swimming

kids swimming

Did you know?

The majority of drownings occur inland where river and lake beds can be difficult to see and therefore extremely difficult to determine if you are swimming within your depth.

The onset of cramp, combined with the panicked realisation that you are out of your depth can have tragic consequences and be compounded further by the muscle cooling effect of longer periods in open water.

Cold water immersion is the greatest contributing factor to drowning and inland waterways can be up to 4° cooler than those in the sea.

Learning to swim is not only a rite of passage, but a hugely important skill to give your children. Swimming is an amazing sport and a fun pastime for many, with huge health benefits. Before you or your children go swimming, you should educate them about the risks and be confident that they understand what to do if danger arises. Here are some simple tips for safe swimming:

  • Never swim alone
  • Know your flags and only swim when it is safe to do so. Try to swim at designated bathing areas where lifeguards are on duty. Check out these summer safe bathing areas where lifeguards will be on duty.
  • If there is no designated bathing area near you, then swim at known traditional bathing areas where there are ring buoys erected that you can use if somebody gets into difficulty.
  • Always check that the ring buoy is in the yellow box before you swim. And if it is missing, report it and don’t swim there until it has been replaced.
  • Swim within your depth and stay within your depth at all times.
  • Wear a wetsuit if you are not used to the cold water, even on the warmest days the water temperature can be a lot lower than the air temperature and your body will already be very warm, so the water can feel even cooler.
  • Never swim with alcohol or drugs in your system and stay away from water if you have consumed alcohol or drugs as 30% of all drowned victims have consumed alcohol.
  • Never swim in Quarries and ESB Reservoirs and tail races.
  • Educate children and teens about the dangers or holding their breath under water.
  • Supervise children in all water from baths to pools to the sea, lakes and rivers.

You may also enjoy – 17 Water Safety Tips that May Save a Child’s Life

Water Safety at the Beach

IWS Beach Water Safety

We are so lucky here in Ireland to have some amazing beaches to enjoy. They can get very busy during hot weather so follow these tips to stay safe at the beach:

  • Don’t swim alone and always let someone know when you are going out in the water.
  • Never swim out after anything. If your ball or other object floats away, let it go as the water can get deep very quickly.
  • Learn the flags and never swim when there is a red flag.
  • Always follow instructions from the lifeguard.
  • Avoid using inflatables and air beds in open water as they can drift out very quickly.
  • Look out for hazards such as surfers, boats, jet-skis, people fishing, people diving etc.
  • Swim parallel to the shore rather than out to sea. Stay within your depth.
  • Never stay in the water too long as you can become cold very quickly. And wear a wetsuit if you are not used to the cold water.
  • Watch out for jellyfish and other marine life including the Lion’s Mane Jellyfish
  • If you are surfing or using a paddle board, kayak, canoe, jet ski or other craft near the beach, be sure to stay in designated areas and look out for swimmers.
  • Before using any equipment, have a lesson.
  • If you are not familiar with the beach, get local knowledge about rip tides, dangerous currents, sinking sand etc.
  • Where possible only swim at designated bathing areas where lifeguards are on duty during the bathing season which runs from June 1st to the September 15th.

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Irish Water Safety

Water Safety on Inland Waterways

Kids swimming in lake or river Inland waterways water safety

Lakes, rivers, canals, streams, disused quarries and other inland waterways sometimes hold different dangers to the sea or swimming pools. 62% of all drownings happen on inland waterways, where the water is often much colder than in the sea and there are no lifeguards on duty.

  • Where possible only swim at designated bathing areas where lifeguards are on duty during the bathing season which runs from June 1st to the September 15th.
  • If there is no Designated Bathing Area near you then swim at known traditional bathing areas where there are ring buoys erected that you can use if somebody gets in to difficulty.
  • Don’t swim in Quarries and ESB Reservoirs and tail races.
  • Often the water is much colder, especially below the surface and this can catch you off guard. Wear a wetsuit if you are not used to cold water.
  • It can also be difficult to see below the surface so you could get out of your depth very quickly.
  • You should always enter the water feet first, as you may not be able to see items that have been submerged, where you could strike your head while diving in.
  • Never wade in after balls, model boats or other objects as the ground beneath the surface can be rocky, fall away quickly or be soft and muddy, so you get stuck.
  • Always play away from the banks of the water as they can be less stable and crumble.
  • Check before you enter the water if there is a ringbouy. And if it is missing, report it and don’t swim there until it has been replaced.
  • Never swim alone. Always ensure there are other people around who know you are going into the water.
  • During winter months, ice can form on the surface of inland waterways, never go onto the ice, as you can’t tell how stable it is.

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Water Safety at Swimming Pools

Water safety at swimming pools

A day out at the swimming pool, whether on holidays or locally is always great fun. Be water safe at swimming pools. 

  • Even when a lifeguard is on duty, parents need to supervise younger children or those who are not confident swimmers, at all times.
  • Always check how deep or shallow the water is especially before diving in.
  • Heed warnings about horseplay and jumping/diving on signs and listen to lifeguards.
  • Never run along the side of the pool.
  • Check for other swimmers before you jump or dive in.
  • Supervise children when in paddling pools at home too.

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Safe Boating

sea kayaking water safety tips on boats

Getting out on the water in a boat is a real adventure. Whether you are sailing, rowing, paddling or using an engine. Here are a few basic safety tips to promote safe boating:

  • Check the condition of your boat before you set sail.
  • Ensure you have enough fuel, a torch, mobile phone and/or marine radio, hand bailer, anchor and the correct equipment on board.
  • Ensure everyone is wearing a well fitted life jacket or life vest, even if they can swim.
  • Check the weather forecast so you don’t get caught out.
  • If you are unfamiliar with the area, check tide times and information on any dangerous currents or rocks / sand banks hidden beneath surface.
  • Have an alternative method of getting back to shore if for instance, an engine fails. This could be a sail or oars.
  • Pack a first aid kit and distress signal kit.
  • Never overload a boat as it will become unstable.
  • Tell someone where you are going and what time to expect you back.
  • Ensure at least one person on the boat has boating experience.

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Safe Coastal Walking

Coastal Walks Water Safety

As well as having amazing beaches, we have an abundance of coastal walks to enjoy here in Ireland. While coastal walking is generally safe, there are several risks you should be aware of before setting out to enjoy a stroll with the family.

  • Check the weather forecast before setting out. Coastal mists can come in very quickly and you could be caught unawares.
  • Only use designated coastal paths.
  • Check tide times so you don’t get stranded by incoming tides.
  • Bring a mobile phone, compass and a map of your route.
  • Stay away from the edges, even on lower ground, as they can be unstable or prone to erosion slips.
  • Wear the correct footwear.
  • Stay together and let someone know where you are going and what time to expect you home.
  • If you are walking with your pet, never follow them into the water.

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Water Safety at Home

water barrel water safety at home

You can drown in just a few inches or water. It is important to know the dangers that exist at home and stay with younger children at all times when they are around water.

  • Ensure all drains and man-holes have tight fitting covers.
  • Cover rain water barrels, leaving just enough space for rain to get in and warn children to stay away from them.
  • Always supervise children when using paddling pools.
  • Warn children of the dangers of going near ponds.
  • If you have a home pool, ensure the cover is tight fitting.
  • Supervise younger children while in the bath.
  • While jumping in muddy puddles is great fun, make sure you check the depth of any puddles as they could be deeper than they look.

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Water Safety on Farms

water safety on the farm

Working farms can have more hazards than other properties. They often have slurry pits, ponds and water barrels for feeding animals and collecting rainwater. Supervision and education of children on farms is key to keeping them safe.

  • Teach children to avoid slurry pits. It is never safe to enter a slurry pit and if someone does fall in, shout for help and extend a branch or item of clothing to them to catch so you can drag them out. Never go in after them.
  • If you have a pond or other water source, supervise children when they are near it.
  • Explain the dangers of getting to close to the edge of natural water holes. The sides are often slippery and unstable.
  • Reeds and other plants can obscure the edge of water features, so stay away from reeds growing near water.
  • During winter months, don’t go onto ice formed on ponds or other water features.
  • Teach children to stay away from water barrels and cover them as best you can.
  • Drains should be covered with a tight fitting lid.
  • Holes that are filled with water may be deeper than you think, so use a stick to judge depth or better still, avoid them.
  • Have fencing around streams or rivers that run through your land.

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Water Safety During Floods

flooding water safety tips

In the last number of years, flooding has become an increasing problem for people who live in costal regions or in close proximity to rivers and streams. Fast moving water can exert pressure of up to 4 times it’s speed and water displaces bodyweight. So the deeper the water, the less your bodyweight matters.

It is imperative to heed flood warnings and stay away from areas where there is a risk of flooding as there is a very real danger of being knocked over or swept away, even while driving, by the current when a river breaks it’s banks or the sea breaches flood defences.

Flood Water Safety Tips

  • Heed flood warnings.
  • Block doorways and access points with sandbags, floodgates or even plastic bags filled with earth.
  • Stay away from the source of the flood, no matter how curious you are.
  • Move vehicles, livestock and yourself, if necessary, to higher ground before the flood comes.
  • Do not drive on flooded roads as it is difficult to judge the depth of the water and your vehicle could be swept away.
  • If swept away in fast flowing water, never put your feet down as they can catch in hidden obstacles beneath the surface, trapping you.
  • Take care when using electric appliances.

Irish Water Safety Education Program

Minister Ring & IWS Chairman Martin O’Sullivan with IWS Lifeguards Launch the 10 year plan to reduce drownings by half

Irish Water Safety (IWS) run a full education program nationwide with courses on How to Become a Lifeguard to water safety courses including water survival and self rescue techniques.

Many courses take place at beaches during the summer months and year round at swimming pools. Through education you will learn to have a healthy respect for water and understand the dangers so you can enjoy water sports and activities safely.

Download the Ultimate Water Safety Guide For Parents Here. 

The Ultimate Water Safety Guide for Parents

Over to you now. Have you any water safety tips to share? Please add them in the comments box below. 



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