People are drowning in our disused quarries and lakes and this is why!.

people are drowning

It’s the height of summer and the temperatures are slightly higher than normal for the time of the year and people are looking for ways to cool down, most of us just keep out of the heat during the hottest part of the day and have our favorite ways to cool off.

We have all seen recently a spate of drownings and it really saddens me that people are losing their lives by swimming in places like disused quarries, lakes or rivers, in the urge to cool down and they probably think it won’t happen to them and sadly it can happen to anyone even the most experienced swimmer because ‘Cold Water Shock’ can kill and  so often does.

So what is cold water shock?

Cold water shock comes about because of contrasting air and water temperatures, you have a very hot day and you have an inviting pool of water and when you enter the cold water it will cause you to gasp uncontrollably and then panic sets in which triggers the ‘flight or fright response’ which  results in confusion and this puts extra strain on the heart which will further lower the skin temperature and peripheral circulation begins to shut down.

With all this happening to the body in a very short space of time the swimmer will be thrashing around in the water trying to swim and this will drive out any trapped air they have trapped in the clothing and will make floating very much harder and that’s why people are drowning. It is a natural reaction for people to panic, but if they know what to do in the water it all calms down again and a bad situation gets a little easier.

So what should you try and do!

I spent a large amount of my life in the forces and finding myself in freezing cold water happened quite a lot and it was drummed into us from the outset that if you panic your chances of survival drop significantly.

We were taught that you must give yourself around 90 seconds to catch your breath and the shock of the cold water passes and your breathing calms down a bit, and your chances of survival have just increased a little, so now you need to get on your back and stretch out your arms and legs and you will start to float, even with clothes on you will still be buoyant because you will have some trapped air in the clothing.

At this point, if you are able too, you can swim towards safety or wait for help to arrive from the emergency services and they can get you to safety.


Hopefully, if you have found yourself in freezing cold water you have a good idea of how to survive it but the golden rule is don’t panic and let the body settle down after the initial shock of the freezing cold water.

Key Points to survive.

  • Control your breathing it takes around 90 seconds for the body to settle.
  • Don’t thrash around in the water because air will escape from your clothing and will reduce that very important buoyancy to help you stay afloat.
  • Lay on your back and spread your arms and legs out this will help keep you afloat.
  • Float till your breathing is under control.
  • When safe to do so swim to safety or wait until the emergency services arrive to rescue you.

Warwickshire First Aid Training has provided this information for guidance only and does not substitute for medical advice. Warwickshire First Aid Training is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made or actions taken on this information.

Its strongly advised that you attend an Emergency First Aid at Work or First Aid at Work course to get the skills and understanding what to do in a medical emergency.

Our first aid courses are regulated by Ofqual and accredited by QNUK.