London Fire Brigade asks parents and guardians to warn their children about the dangers of open water swimming this summer

Ahead of schools breaking up for the summer later this month, London Fire Brigade is asking carers of schoolchildren to take the time to sit down and explain the risks associated with open water swimming.

The call builds on work the Brigade’s Education Team have completed over the past year, delivering more than 3,770 water safety sessions to Year 8 students across the capital, alongside sessions on fire safety.


Swimming in open water, such as rivers, canals and lakes can seem like an attractive way to cool off during hot weather, but these inland water locations continue to be the leading locations for accidental drownings in the UK.

Data from the Water Incident Database shows that the drowning risk in England increases as children reach their teenage years. Males continue to be overrepresented with 83 per cent of accidental fatalities. 

The Brigade is continuing to work closely with schools, encouraging them to place importance on water safety education and are beginning work to expand delivery of their water safety sessions to further year groups. They’re now asking for help from parents and carers to ensure their children always follow the water safety code when around water and understand the risks of jumping into cold water.

Equipping children and teenagers with water safety knowledge will help to ensure their safety long-term

Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety, Charlie Pugsley, said: “Sadly, the number of deaths caused by drowning that firefighters attended in 2022 doubled in comparison to the year before. A number of these tragically included young people, so we’re asking parents and carers of schoolchildren to take the time to sit down with children and carefully explain how to safely enjoy spending time around water over the summer holidays.

“Even in the summer when the weather is really warm, the water temperature can cause cold water shock. Cold water can cause your body to go into shock no matter how fit you are or well you can swim, causing panic, anxiety, disorientation and loss of muscular control. These reactions can also cause you to gasp for air resulting in water being inhaled. If you fall in to water – stay calm, float on your back and call for help.

Deputy Mayor for Fire and Resilience, Fiona Twycross, said: “Following record temperatures last summer, we saw some tragic incidents involving young people swimming in the Thames, London’s canals and waterways.

“That’s why the Mayor and I are urging Londoners to follow the Fire Brigade’s safety advice about the dangers of jumping into open water and supporting the Brigade with the resources it needs to educate young people about the water safety code.

“Equipping young Londoners with water safety knowledge will help to prevent future tragedies and is part of the Mayor’s ongoing work to build a safer and better London for everyone.”

There are fun learning resources available to download on the Brigade’s website to help parents when talking to children about keeping safe around water.

The water safety code:

Stop and think

  • Take time to assess your surroundings
  • Look for the dangers and always research local signs and advice

Stay together

  • When around water always go with friends or family
  • Swim at a lifeguarded venue

Call 999 in an emergency:

  • Call 999 if you see someone in trouble in the water. Don’t enter the water to rescue.


  • If you fall in or become tired – stay calm, float on your back and call for help.
  • Throw something that floats to somebody that has fallen in

For more tips on water safety and what to do if you see someone struggling in water follow our water safety guide.

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