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Water can be dangerous for non-swimmers – approximately 9 million people in the UK cannot swim, while 25% of people who can swim thought they would struggle to swim 25 metres unaided. These statistics are quite worrying given the amount of coastline and waterways in the UK, but strategically placed ladders at the side of canals or popular swimming spots with sheer sides, like wharfs and small harbours, can help save lives.
A ladder on a quayside or canal lock provides an escape route for anyone who falls in, and even if the person requires rescuing and cannot manage the ladder on their own, it still makes getting them out of the water much easier. Animals who fall into pools and drains where they cannot get out also benefit from ladders, either fixed or placed in as a rescue method. In Singapore otters have even been observed using the ladders to get out of the harbour water, and recently in Nagpur, India, a tiger was rescued from a canal, with the use of a ladder, by forest officials, who care for the tigers and their natural habitat. The tiger, known to rangers and locals as Jaichand, was in the canal for around two hours before he was rescued and sprinted off quickly into the forest. Village residents had alerted the forest rangers after seeing the big cat struggling to get over the slippery sides of the canal. They attended within 15 minutes and sprang into action, deploying a ladder and net to help Jaichand escape.
In Tea Gardens, New South Wales, police officers funded a wharf ladder to enable swimmers to safely get in and out of the water. A fund-raising golf day garnered the funds, and labour donated by local firm Tea Gardens Engineering completed the community initiative, which was rubber stamped with no red tape by the council. The wharf ladder project has been praised by local residents, as it will stop swimmers having the haul themselves over the oyster-covered sides to get out. It will also make it safer for rescues, although we imagine there won't be many, if any, residents of this coastal town that can't swim.
If you are planning on going wild swimming, or swimming in canals or harbours, it is important to know how you will get out safely before you go in, and if you are with small children or non-swimmers around bodies of water, it is also advisable to identify a rescue route should anyone fall in.