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Swimming safely in open water

Do you like to cool down in the lake or river in hot weather? Find out how to prevent swimming accidents in open water.

Question time

Marc Audeoud, rescue specialist at the SLRG

Someone gets into trouble in a river or lake. How do I react correctly? 
Raise the alarm immediately so that professional help arrives on the scene quickly. You can then try to calm the person down and give them instructions to guide them to the shore. If flotation devices such as lifebuoys, Baywatch buoys or similar are within reach, throw them to the person in difficulty. Another possibility is to hold out a branch or throw a rope for them to catch on to. In this way, you can pull the person ashore without having to get into the water. Only if these options are not possible and you feel confident should you go into the water yourself to rescue the person. For by doing so, you can put yourself in danger too.

Why is it dangerous to go into the water myself to help someone? 
In a river, there are various potential hazards such as driftwood or obstacles such as bridge pillars. Drowning people also tend to flail their arms around or cling to the rescuer, which can be dangerous for both of them. As a rescuer, always take a flotation device with you that the person in distress can hold onto, and use it to pull them ashore. Situations such as these are discussed and practised in SLRG courses.

What do I have to watch out for when I go swimming in a lake or river? 
First and foremost: never go into unsupervised water alone. You should also always have a safe flotation device with you, which can provide valuable assistance in an emergency or if you get tired. Familiarise yourself with the stretch of water beforehand, identify possible hazards, reconnoitre entry and exit points, and if in doubt, don’t go out.


The 6 swimming safety rules

The SLRG’s 6 swimming safety rules tell you how to behave by, in and on the water safely:

1 Only allow children near water if supervised – young children should be kept within arm’s reach!
2 Never go into the water if you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs! Never swim with a full or very empty stomach!
3 Never jump into the water if you are overheated! Your body needs time to adjust.


4 Do not dive into cloudy or unknown areas of water! The unknown can be dangerous.
5 Airbeds and swimming aids should not be used in deep water! They do not offer any protection.
6 Never swim long distances alone! Even the best swimmer can experience an attack of weakness.


Additional information