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Be Water Aware - national campaign to reduce drowning

25 April 2016

Fire and rescue services across the UK are supporting the Chief Fire Officers Association’s (CFOA) Drowning Prevention and Water Safety Week 2016 which is taking place from 25 April – 1 May.

The campaign is raising awareness of the everyday dangers of being near water. A total of 44 per cent of people who drowned in 2014 had no intention of entering the water. Trips, falls or underestimating the risks associated with being near water meant that 302 people lost their lives. Adhering to some simple advice can reduce your risk of ending up in the water. By asking people to be ‘water aware’, we aim to reduce the number of fatalities.

CFOA’s water safety lead, Dawn Whittaker, said:

“Most people would be shocked to hear that those people drowning just happen to be near water such as runners, walkers and fisherman. They are unaware of the risks and are totally unprepared for the scenario of ending up in the water. By highlighting this issue and making sure simple safety messages reach them we hope to reduce the number of these needless deaths.

Humberside Fire and Rescue Service’s Community Safety Manager Steve Duffield was quick to highlight local issues:

“With the weather getting warmer we are keen to highlight water safety awareness to children, their parents and as wide a cross-section of the local community as possible. With a long coastline, a dangerous tidal river and docks and marinas in places such as Grimsby and Hull, the Humberside Service area has many high risk areas. We would like to highlight the dangers of open water and encourage people, whatever their age, to take extra care. People do not understand that even the strongest swimmers can find themselves in difficulty, as the cold water causes muscles to cramp. There is then a strong possibility that they cannot swim due to muscular cramps which can then lead to drowning.”

By following these ten simple tips, we can reduce the number of serious injuries and fatalities in our region:

1. If someone falls into deep water, call 999. If you are near the coast ask for the coastguard, if you are inland ask for the fire service and ambulance.

2. Never enter the water to try and save someone. This usually ends up adding to the problem. If you go into the water you are likely to suffer from cold water shock, which will leave you unable to help.

3. In an emergency, look around for any lifesaving equipment. Depending on where you are, there might be lifebelts or throw bags – use them. If there is no lifesaving equipment, look at what else you can use. There may be something that can help them stay afloat – even an item such as a ball can help.

4. You could attempt to reach out to someone struggling in water. Clothes such as scarves, or long sticks could be used. If you do this, lie on the ground so your entire body is safely on the edge and reach out with your arm. Don’t stand up or lean over the water.

5. If you manage to get the person out of the water, they will always need medical attention. Even if they seem fine, drowning can occur at a later stage if water has already entered the lungs.

6. When fishing, check that the spot you have chosen is safe. Remember that riverbanks can erode.

7. Avoid throwing sticks or balls near water for dogs – they will go after something if they think you want it back, even if you’ve thrown it too far or into dangerous water.

8. Never enter the water to try and save a dog – the dog usually manages to scramble out.

9. Remember that alcohol reduces inhibitions and can mean you take more risks. If you fall into water after drinking, your chances of being able to get out of the water are decreased due to alcohol’s impairment of simple movements.

10. If fishing, make sure you let someone know where you are going. Make sure you have a fully charged mobile and a good signal.

Being near water is perceived as a low risk activity and water related activities are high risk. Statistics demonstrate that this is not the case and about 44% of people who drown had no intention of entering the water.

Find out more by visiting the CFOA campaign website.

Other useful information can be found at The National Water Safety Forum or the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents