Riverbank safety

After heavy rain rivers or canals can get swollen or flooded.

Walking near a river or canal

  • Stick to a designated foot path.
  • Use a bridge to cross even if it means walking a little further.

Riverbanks can be dangerous

  • They can be slippery and can often crumble, especially after rain.
  • Don't walk too close to the river’s edge, especially on the outside banks of bend. These are often where the fastest waters are and could be prone to collapse.

Canals can contain very deep water

  • Keep away from the edge and beware of locks and weirs as the water flows very quickly.

Pets and water

  • Keep dogs on leads near water.
  • Don’t throw sticks or balls near these locations
  • If your dog does go into the water and gets stranded call 999 and wait for assistance.

What happens if I fall in?

  • After a short period of time in cold water you will experience hypothermia or cold shock.
  • You may become ill as the water may be polluted and urban rivers and particularly canals may have Weil’s disease.

If you fall in

  • Shout for help as loudly as you can.
  • Attempt to get to a safe place:
    • If you can feel the river bed try to move yourself in small jumps towards safety.  Either to the bank or something you can climb on
    • If the current is strong or the water is very deep try to work with the flow and not against it. Even if this carries you downstream
    • It is always safer to swim or crawl.
    • If you try to stand you are more likely to get knocked over or may get your foot trapped in something on the river bed.
  • As soon as it seems you are in slower moving water:
    • Turn onto your front and swim as strongly as you can.
    • Swim diagonally across the current towards the bank.
    • Get away from the centre of the river as soon as you can. Avoiding outside bends as this is where the water flows the fastest.
  • If you are in deep, fast flowing water then lean back and float with your feet first:
    • Try to keep your knees slightly bent. This will enable you to push yourself away from objects in the water that may harm you like rocks or other hazards.
    • You can also steer by using your hands as paddles.
  • In flood conditions there may be debris floating in the river with you:
    • A floating log may provide a good lifesaver but a submerged tree might be quite dangerous.
    • If you see a potential hazard attempt to steer yourself around it or over it if you have to.
  • If you find yourself heading towards a hazard like a weir then you must try to roll into a ball, using your hands and arms to protect your head.

If someone else falls in

  • Never jump into the water to rescue them.
  • Stay on land and call the emergency services.
  • Stay calm and talk to them and tell you have called for help and try and reassure them.
  • If the person is being taken rapidly downstream then try to get ahead of them
  • Shout and signal to others for help.
  • Throw something buoyant so they can grab hold and stay afloat until they can be rescued:
    • Look around to see if there is a Life Ring.
    • See if there is anything you could use to help. Is there a fallen branch that you could pass to them to hold onto, a rope or even a football will help the person to stay buoyant:
      • Large plastic bottles: An empty large bottle with a screw top makes an excellent lifesaver as it is buoyant. Throw the bottle to the person so they can hold it to stay afloat.
      • Football: Although this may be hard to hold onto, footballs float extremely well. They can be thrown a long way too unlike an empty plastic bottle. A football is also something you may have with you if you are out with your family.
      • Large fallen branch:  See if there are any large fallen branches around: the person may be able to grab hold of this and you may be able to pull them to the bank.
    • Keep an eye out for a point where you might be able to get a line or a branch out far enough to reach them and pull them to safety.
    • If the water is fast moving throw the item so that person can catch up to it.
    • Be careful not to fall in riverbanks can be slippery and can crumble.
    • Make sure you are safe as you don’t want to need to be rescued as well!

If your dog falls in

  • Never jump in after it always stay on land.
  • Dogs are great swimmers and it’s unlikely that they will come to any harm.
  • Do not swim out to rescue the dog - you may cause them to panic and put yourself in danger.
  • Try to follow along from the bank and wait for an opportunity so that you can help the dog.
  • Encourage it to come out of the water. If you can get ahead of them try to drag them out by the collar, or use a branch or oar to help them.