Play it safe this winter

Scottish Water is reminding customers in Angus of the importance of playing safe this winter.

Last winter may have been relatively mild but recent years have witnessed some of the coldest winters for generations, so there is no telling what the next few months may bring.

Anne-Marie Dewar, Scottish Water’s Regional Community Manager, is advising customers that they should remain vigilant and should not take any risks around freezing cold watercourses.

She said: “We don’t want to spoil anyone’s fun, but we are reminding parents to keep their children safe, and asking adults to act responsibly around watercourses.

“While it’s important that youngsters enjoy their school holidays and that people across Scotland take pleasure in the country’s beautiful lochs, rivers and reservoirs, it is also vital that they stay safe.”

That’s a message which the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) is keen to reiterate.

Carlene McAvoy, Scotland’s community safety development officer for RoSPA with a remit for water safety, said: “Snow and ice are enchanting to most children, but RoSPA knows only too well that these wintry conditions can also be a real danger.

“RoSPA wants youngsters to get out, have fun and play safely, and the best way for them to do that is if parents talk to their children about the hazards of playing on frozen water and what to do if they or their friends get into trouble.

“RoSPA’s advice is to take care around the edges of lochs and rivers because snow can obscure them, and we recommend that dogs are kept on a lead so they do not run out on to the ice. Frozen water may look tempting, but there is no way of knowing whether the ice will hold your weight and it’s often too late by the time you find out that it won’t.”

Reservoirs are man-made features and because of their purpose, they have a number of unique hidden dangers. These relate mainly to built-structures such as dams, spillways and water intakes and the effects of these.

Other hidden dangers found at reservoirs include deep water - which will be very cold at this time of year, underwater plant life and steep banks. Each year, there are more accidental drowning deaths in inland waters than in any other type of water.

Peter Farrer, Scottish Water’s Customer Service Delivery Director, said: “Natural hazards can also lurk beneath the surface, where children and adults can get entangled in vegetation or stuck in mud. The majority of reservoirs are remote so there is a lack of immediate assistance.”

Deputy Chief Constable Andy Cowie, the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (ACPOS) lead on Search and Rescue, stressed the need for a common sense approach and for parents and carers to take time out to explain the dangers to their children. He said: “All of the agencies want to see our countryside and our waterways being enjoyed at this time of year, but we need to stress the hidden dangers to everyone so that they can make sensible decisions.

“Holiday periods are always a busy time for all the emergency services and for the volunteers who support us. With over 37,000 separate stretches of inland water in Scotland, many of which are remote, help will often be some considerable time away.

“The best advice is to be aware of the dangers, think about the risks and plan to minimise them.”

Scottish SPCA Chief Superintendent Mike Flynn said: “Anyone who spots an animal in distress in water this winter, be that a domestic pet, livestock or wildlife, should call our Animal Helpline on 03000 999 999.

“If it is an emergency situation, such as when a pet has fallen through ice, then the owner should call the fire and rescue service and wait for assistance. We always urge dog owners to keep their pets on the lead near frozen waterways and people must never go after their dog if it walks out onto the ice. Each year we hear of incidents where people have tried to rescue their pet from a frozen river or lake, often with tragic consequences.”

If customers would like more information they can contact our Customer Helpline on 0845 601 8855 or