In an emergency

  1. Take a minute - The initial effects of cold water pass in the less than a minute so don’t try and swim straight away
  2. Relax and float - on your back to catch your breath. Try to get hold of something that will help
    you float
  3. Keep calm - then call for help or swim to safety if you’re able
  4. If the ice is strong enough, kick your legs to slide onto the ice
  5. Lie flat and pull yourself towards the bank
  6. If the ice breaks, work your way to the bank-breaking the ice in front of you anyway
  7. If you cannot climb out, wait for help and keep as still as possible. Preserve heat by pressing your arms by your side and keep your legs together. Keep your head clear of the water
  8. Once you are safe, go to hospital immediately for a check up

Before you go...

Be prepared

Going for a swim in cold, open water can be exhilarating, but it’s not without risk. So if it’s your first time open water swimming or cold water dipping, it’s important to speak to a health care professional to discuss the risks of cold water immersion before you go. 

Always arrange to go with a buddy. Open-water swimming is much more fun with someone else, and you can look out for each other. It’s also good to tell someone on shore where you are going and when you will be back. They’ll be able to call for help if you are overdue back.

Remember - When you go open water swimming, it’s very important to enter the water slowly and allow time for your body to get used to the cold. Never jump or dive straight in, as this could cause cold water shock.

Choose your spot

When choosing your spot, consider:

  • Where you can enter and exit the water
  • Your location – are there any hazards you need to be aware of?
  • Before you enter the water, assess the conditions. If the water is too rough for swimming, don’t get in.
Check the weather

Always check the weather forecast before you set off. If you’re planning to be out for a long time, get regular updates. And be prepared to change your plans or cancel the trip if the forecast is not safe. If in doubt, don’t go out.

Check the weather at: Met Office (UK)

Have the right equipment
  • Wear a wetsuit. It’ll help you stay warm so you can stay in the water for longer.
  • Consider wearing a brightly coloured swimming hat when swimming or dipping. These will help you to be seen in the water.
  • Always take a means of calling for help with you, such as a mobile phone in a waterproof pouch and a whistle to attract attention. 
  • Make sure you have plenty of warm clothes and a warm drink for after your swim. It is important to warm yourself up carefully.