Stay safe during Christmas break

Winter may have so far been milder than in previous years but Scottish Water is reminding customers throughout the Borders that it is still important that they play safe over the holidays.

We have witnessed the coldest winters for generations in the last two years and Peter Farrer, Scottish Water’s customer Service Delivery Director is advising local customers that they should remain vigilant and not take any unnecessary risks around freezing cold watercourses.

“While it’s important that youngsters enjoy their school holidays and that people across Scotland take pleasure in the country’s beautiful lochs, rivers and reservoirs, it is also vital that they stay safe,” he commented.

“We don’t want to spoil anyone’s fun, but we are reminding parents to keep their children safe, and asking adults to act responsibly around watercourses. Don’t wander too near the edge because you could slip and fall in. Dogs also need to be kept on a lead if they are being walked near reservoirs and other bodies of open water.”

That’s a message which the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents is keen to reiterate. 

Peter Cornall, head of leisure safety at the RoSPA, said: “At RoSPA, we are committed to the philosophy that life should be as safe as necessary, not as safe as possible, and we encourage people - particularly children - to get out and about to enjoy the wintry weather.

“Along with wrapping up well to keep warm and dry, it is important for all of us to be aware of the hazards of frozen water and the extremes of winter weather conditions. We encourage parents to talk to their children about the hazards of frozen water and what to do if they see someone fall through the ice. “Although frozen water can look tempting, there’s simply no way of knowing whether the ice will hold your weight and it’s often too late by the time you find out that it won’t.”

Reservoirs are man made features and because of their purpose, they have a number of unique hidden dangers. These dangers include deep water – which will be very, very cold at this time of year, underwater plant life and steep banks.

Each year, there are more accidental drowning deaths in inland waters than in any other type of water.

Bill Elliot, Scottish Water’s Regional Community Manager for the area added:

“Natural hazards can also lurk beneath the surface, where children and adults can get entangled in vegetation or stuck in mud.  The majority of reservoirs are remote and so there is a lack of immediate assistance. Safety education is a priority – please play safe this Christmas.”

Children are the group probably most at risk in such accidents. It is vital parents explain the dangers to their children.

Adults themselves should set a good example. Even strong swimmers could be fooled by waters which may be colder than they might look. 

Deputy Chief Constable Andy Cowie, the ACPOS lead on Search & Rescue stressed the need for a common sense approach and for parents and carers to take time out to explain the dangers to their children.

”All of the agencies want to see our countryside and our waterways being enjoyed at this time of year, but we need to stress the hidden dangers to everyone so that they can make sensible decisions.

“Holiday periods are always a busy time for all the Emergency Services and for the volunteers who support us.

“ With over 37,000 separate stretches of inland water in Scotland, many of which are remote, help will often be some considerable time away.

“The best advice is to be aware of the dangers, think about the risks and plan to minimise them, where it’s sensible to do so.”