Stirling Council and its key public safety partners have delivered a joint message about the dangers of open water this summer.

The Stirling area is home to some of the most stunning lochs, rivers and reservoirs Scotland has to offer – but they can also be extremely dangerous.

On average, 400 people drown in the UK each year. Although some of these tragedies are down to risky actions, many are everyday mistakes, such as a trip or fall, or underestimating the effect of swimming in cold open water that can cause ‘cold water shock’.

These accidents can be fatal and with the start of the school summer holidays, the easing of Covid-19 restrictions and the increasing popularity of activities such as wild swimming, the Council has teamed up with Police Scotland, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park to warn people of the dangers.

Aware of the risks

Convener of Stirling Council’s Public Safety Committee, Cllr Scott Farmer said: “At this time of year, more people will be visiting our beauty spots with open water so it’s important they are  involved.

“Lochs, rivers and other inland waters may look calm and inviting but there are many hidden dangers, such as very cold water – even during summer – strong currents and unseen objects. So please stop and think before you take a dip.”

Tragic stories

Vice Convener, Cllr Chris Kane said: “Unfortunately, every summer there are tragic stories of people drowning in open water causing heartache for families and friends. It is vital that everyone knows how to minimise the risks.

“With many families planning staycations or days out near our inland waters, I would encourage parents and carers to educate children, young people and their families of the potential dangers so they can all have a safe and enjoyable experience when they visit Stirling.”

Appropriate care

Police Scotland Inspector Andy Bushell said: "Stirling has some incredible beauty spots that are close to bodies of water, as well as man-made structures such as reservoirs.

"During warm summer months these may seem appealing to use for cooling down, however, often this leads to people getting into difficulty and requiring assistance from the emergency services.

"Sometimes the consequences are even greater and so it is essential you take appropriate care when in the water and do not enter if you are not a confident swimmer, or if you do not know the depth and current strength.

“We are committed to keeping our communities safe during the summer and are delighted to support this campaign.”

Tragic consequences

Mark Bryce - Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s Local Senior Office for Stirling, Clackmannanshire and Fife - said: “We want people to have an enjoyable time during the warmer months, but safety is our top priority, and it is extremely important that we remind the public about staying safe near the water.

“What might start as a harmless dip can have tragic consequences if the proper advice isn’t followed. Although it might seem warm enough, open water can be very cold and cause cold water shock that can be deadly. It’s also often impossible to know what hazards lie below the surface of the water.

“Unfortunately, and particularly during the warmer months, our water rescue crews can often respond to emergency calls from people in difficulty.”

Local dangers

Kenny Auld, Head of Visitor Services at Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, said: “The lochs and rivers of the National Park are a major part of what makes this place special and offer great recreation opportunities for people but we want to make sure people can enjoy the water safely.

“It’s important that everyone follows safety advice when on or near the water. Lochs are very deep and cold, even in the summer, so cold water shock is a real danger. They can also change in depth very close to shore so it’s vital to check for signage on site warning you of local dangers before you go in, and always keep a close eye on friends and family.”

Life-saving equipment

Members of the public are also reminded not to misuse the life-saving equipment around Stirling’s waterways such as life rings. Disappointingly, the Council had to make another public appeal on Thursday 30 July after a string of life ring thefts on the River Forth.

Cllr Farmer added: “Playing or removing life-saving equipment is an extremely serious issue that could have fatal consequences.”

Advice and resources:

Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park

Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents

The Water Safety Code

Scottish Fire and Rescue

Scottish Water

RNLI: Float to Live

To look after yourself and keep safe, follow these two key pieces of advice:

If you get into trouble in the in the water, Float to Live. Lean back and use your arms and legs to help you float, then get control of your breathing before calling for help or swimming to safety.

If you see someone else in trouble in the water, call 999 or 112. If you are at the coast ask for the coastguard, if you are inland, ask for the fire service.

Picture details:

Pictured at the riverfront in Callander are (from left) Kenny Auld, Head of Visitor Services at Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park; Cllr Scott Farmer, Stirling Council Leader; Scott Mason, Stirling Council Fisheries Officer; Mark Bryce, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s Local Senior Office for Stirling, Clackmannanshire and Fife; Inspector Andy Bushell from Police Scotland.