While severe storms and flooding are highlighted nationally, people can be caught out very quickly with many accidents occurring due to strong winds, spring tides and heavy rainfall.
During times of bad weather the message from the RNLI and the Irish Coast Guard is to stay away from the water, give waves a wide berth, and be aware that in bad weather unexpected swells can easily catch people out. Even if the water itself looks calm, waves and tides can be very powerful and pull you off your feet.
Both organisations are advising that if you find yourself in the water unexpectedly, relax and float on your back to catch your breath and try to grab hold of something to keep you afloat. The initial shock of being in cold water can cause a person to gasp and panic. These initial effects of cold water pass in less than a minute, so don’t try to swim straight away. Keep calm, call for help, or swim for safety if you are able.
If you see someone in the water, call 999/112 and ask for the Coast Guard. If you have something that floats or that they can hold on to, throw it to them. Avoid going into the water yourself – many people drown trying to save others.
Gareth Morrison, RNLI Community Lifesaving Delivery Manager says: ‘Irish weather can be unpredictable at the best of times and our lifeboat crews have answered many call outs where people have been caught out by the weather unexpectedly taking a turn for the worse. We urge everyone to respect the water at all times and to keep safe and remind people not to underestimate the distance waves can travel up the beach or harbour wall. Although it can be tempting to get close, it isn’t worth risking your life to take photos or to dodge waves.’
Gareth continued: ‘If you plan on going out walking after a storm or high winds, be wary. Storms and high winds can change our landscape through coastal erosion so pay attention to warning signs, and don’t leave designated paths to look over the edge of clifftops.’
Gerard O’Flynn, Irish Coast Guard Operations Manager added: ‘For anybody planning on walking close to the shore, be it on a beach, cliff, public walkway or harbour facility the advice is;
‘Stay Back, Stay High, Stay Dry.’