Balloch to Barcelona – keep your eyes on your children when swimming
Busy beaches like this one in Barcelona can make it difficult for parents to keep an eye on their children. Pictures by Bill Heaney
Parents have been warned they are putting their children’s lives at risk by allowing themselves to become distracted when going swimming.
Water Safety expert John Leech said the number of children being re-united with their parents by lifeguards on holiday beaches was on the increase.
“Unfortunately with social media and mobile phones, we’re seeing an awful of people who get distracted and unfortunately are not looking after their children very well and on a busy beach it’s very easy to lose sight of your child,” he said.
“Obviously everybody’s in their swim suits so it’s quite difficult to identify our child on a very busy beach. It’s something that we’re obviously concerned about because that’s how children drown.”
Life guard Fiona Quirke said that among the problems they face are non-swimmers jumping into deep water, out of their depth.
Another issue is the large number of inflatable craft on beaches such as lilos.
“Small children are drifting out into deep water, we encourage parents to look after their children and always ask the lifeguard if it’s safe to go into the water.”
Mr Leech said that the main tips for everybody this summer are – swim in areas where there is a lifeguard, swim and stay within your depth.
Use local knowledge, make sure a ring buoy is available. Avoid inflatable items such as lilos, which he described as “inflatable killers” and wear life jackets when you are out in a boat.
How to have fun and stay safe in the water
Meanwhile, getting out and active on the water is a great way to enjoy and experience the Loch Lomond National Park. With the warm weather we’ve been experiencing recently, more and more people are taking to the water and for some people it may be the first time they have ever swum or paddled in open water.
But whether you are an experienced open water swimmer or just fancy dipping your toes in to cool off; it’s essential that you’re well prepared before getting in the water.
- Remember that the loch can be busy and although you may be able to see boaters, they may not be able to see you! Wear a bright swim cap and tow a bright float so you are more obvious to other loch users.
- Swimming alone in busy areas can be dangerous. Look for quieter areas of the loch.
- The weather might be hot but the water is still very cold and shock can set in quickly and rapidly lead to hypothermia. We strongly recommend you wear a wetsuit to keep you warmer and more buoyant. The water can be cold even on a hot day. Enter slowly so you have time to get used to it.
- Don’t swim alone – swim with at least one other person.
- Always swim within your own capabilities and always check the depth of the water bed by walking in carefully – if you can’t swim or are not an experienced swimmer then don’t paddle far from the shore as water depth can change suddenly and unexpectedly.
- Avoid diving straight into the water and if you do get into trouble then float on your back and try not to panic.
Avoid blue/green algae during the summer months.
Informed and Mindful
- Tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back.
- Check weather conditions before heading out and remember that conditions can change quickly – a large swell can quickly develop when wind directions change.
- Some places are better than others for swimming. Make sure you familiarise yourself with the area before swimming or take part in any water based activity.
- Be aware boaters may be in any area of the loch at any time of day or night. If possible avoid mooring areas, marinas and jetties used by boats, waterbus routes and boating channels. Know how to call for help – if you or someone you are with gets into difficulties while in any of the National Park’s bodies of water, call 999 and ask for the police.
- On Loch Lomond we are very fortunate to have a volunteer operated rescue boat. Always know where you are so help can get to you as quickly as possible should you need it.
If you are planning to swim on Loch Lomond, National Park Rangers will be happy to answer any questions you might have – contact the Duncan Mills Memorial Slipway in Balloch on 01389 722030.
In an emergency call 999, ask for Police and the rescue boat and provide the exact location of the emergency.