Ahead of the summer holidays and warmer weather, the Met’s Marine Policing Unit (MPU) are raising awareness about the dangers of entering the water and what to do if you find yourself in the River Thames or any of London’s other waterways.
Inspector Stuart Simpson of the MPU said: “Whilst the weather has been wet and rainy of late, we anticipate that, hopefully, warmer weather will come and people often see the river as a place to cool off. And although London will be hot, the river runs at an average of 12C. Cold water shock can occur at any temperature under 15C.
“I urge the public to not underestimate the river. Once a person is in the water they will almost definitely struggle to keep afloat or in control; the Thames holds currents stronger than any person, moves at extreme speeds and is capable carrying a person swiftly along the river. The water may look calm but the tides are extremely strong and quick, and can easily drag someone a mile in just ten minutes.
“Think before you act, consider the dangers and please do not jump in the water, however good a swimmer you are.
“For some people their natural instinct will be to try and save someone in trouble but as soon as you enter the water you will be putting your life at danger too.
“Please do not enter the water yourself and instead dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard. Officers and our partners are highly trained and able drive boats at high speed with skill and precision to get to a casualty as quickly as possible.
“The best support you can give is keeping eyes on the person in danger, providing valuable information so we can pin point an exact location.
“If you see someone in danger, act fast, act sensibly. Throw a life ring if possible, keep your eyes on the person and wait for trained and professional help.”
On average the MPU is called to over 20 incidents a week on the River Thames; they work with partner agencies such as the RNLI, Coastguard, Port of London Authority, Tidal Thames Water Safety Forum and London Fire brigade, to help keep the tidal stretch of the Thames safe for Londoners.
These highly trained officers patrol the water 24/7 and are equipped to deal with any situation that may present itself. They are rigorously tested on their ability to operate on the water, including their ability to drive safely at speed, dive and recover discarded weapons, climb and operate on ropes at height, perform emergency first aid and rescue people who enter the waterways.
Along with their partners, the MPU is a member of the Tidal Thames Safety Forum and continues to work in support of their strategy to reduce suicide by drowning and accidental death by drowning. This work is pioneering and has included the implementation of a Mental Health Nurse working with the MPU full time along with a coordinator working across the NHS trusts.
+ If you find yourself in the water then please follow the RNLI’s ‘Float to Live’ steps:
The five steps to know how to float are:
- If you fall into water, fight your instinct to thrash around.
- Lean back, extend your arms and legs.
- If you need to, gently move them around to help you float.
- Float until you can control your breathing.
- Only then, call for help or swim to safety.
+ Very sadly, officers often come across people who have chosen to take their own lives along the Thames and work very hard to recover anyone who enters the river, and bring them to safety. Sometimes, it is too late. In the first six months of 2021, 22 bodies have been recovered from the River Thames.
There is support out there for anyone suffering from suicidal thoughts. If you are in urgent need of assistance call 999. You can also call the Samaritans on 116 123: https://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help/contact-samaritan/
If you are concerned about a friend, loved one or even stranger who you may think is at immediate risk please call 999.