It’s the type of 999 call that emergency services personnel dread: reports of a child struggling to keep afloat after falling into a river – especially during the winter months!
But that’s exactly what Officers & Firefighters, as well as the London Ambulance Service, had to respond to on Wednesday evening in east London.
Police Officers from Response Team B, based in Barking & Dagenham, were first on scene to reports of a 10-year-old child who had fallen into the frigid Barking Creek in east London.
You can imagine just how the emergency services must have felt whilst en-route to the call, knowing that a young child was in trouble in the pitch-black as they struggled to stay afloat in the river.
The average temperature of inland waterways at this time of year, is a chilly 10 degrees celsius.
The human body can quickly succumb to the cold temperatures experienced in waterways during the winter months and hypothermia can rapidly set in.
A spokesperson for Barking & Dagenham Police told Emergency Services News:
“Police were called to Barking Creek at 19:04 hours (Wednesday) to a child in the water.
“Police Arrived on scene and officers climbed down the bank and secured the child with a throw line.
“Police were then assisted by colleagues from the London Fire Brigade and together pulled the child to safety.
“He was then conveyed to an east London hospital by London Ambulance for assessment with non-life changing / threatening injuries”.
A local resident said:
“I’m surprised that this has not happened before. Kids are always playing by the river, which is not helped by easy access via an unnecessary ladder”.
The RNLI recommends the following actions should you ever inadvertently end up in cold water:
What’s the risk?
Anything below 15°C is defined as cold water and can seriously affect your breathing and movement, so the risk is significant most of the year.
Average UK and Ireland sea temperatures are just 12°C.
Rivers such as the Thames are colder – even in the summer.
Cold water shock causes the blood vessels in the skin to close, which increases the resistance of blood flow.
Heart rate is also increased.
As a result the heart has to work harder and your blood pressure goes up. Cold water shock can therefore cause heart attacks, even in the relatively young and healthy.
The sudden cooling of the skin by cold water also causes an involuntary gasp for breath.
Breathing rates can change uncontrollably, sometimes increasing as much as tenfold.
All these responses contribute to a feeling of panic, increasing the chance of inhaling water directly into the lungs.
This can all happen very quickly: it only takes half a pint of sea water to enter the lungs for a fully grown man to start drowning. You could die if you don’t get medical care immediately.
How can you minimise the risk?
If you enter the water unexpectedly:
- Take a minute. The initial effects of cold water pass in less than a minute so don’t try to swim straight away.
- Relax and float on your back to catch your breath. Try to get hold of something that will help you float.
- Keep calm then call for help or swim for safety if you’re able.
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