Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service (RBFRS) has teamed up with Thames Valley Police (TVP), South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) the Environment Agency and local councils to support the Royal Life Saving Society’s (RLSS) national Drowning Prevention Week campaign, running from 19-26 June.
Over 400 people tragically lose their lives in accidental drownings each year in the UK and Ireland and many more suffer life-changing injuries.
In order to reduce the number of accidental drownings each year, Drowning Prevention Week aims to equip people with the skills and knowledge to be able to enjoy the water safely, especially as COVID-19 restrictions ease and people are expected to flock to beaches and inland water spots.
Councillor Colin Dudley, Chairman of Royal Berkshire Fire Authority, said: “We know that many of our residents will want to use our waterways to exercise or cool off in the warm weather, but water has many hidden dangers. Every year, there are numerous water-related incidents, many of which have devastating outcomes and many of which could have been avoided.
“Please take extra care around our waterways and while you are spending time at the coast. Most people are unaware of the risks and are unprepared for if they end up in the water.”
James Blake, Water Rescue Instructor and Watch Based Station Manager at RBFRS, said: “This week we have teamed up with our partners to support Drowning Prevention Week as we recognise how vitally important it is that people are aware of the potential dangers of open water.
“There is an average of 400 tragic accidental drownings each year in the UK. However, drowning is preventable and can be reduced by being aware of the risks. We would encourage our residents to take a look at our water safety advice so that they and their loved ones are able to enjoy the water safely, both at our inland water spots as well as at the coast.
“If you do wish to take part in open water swimming, we advise doing so with an organised group and by sticking to designated swimming areas where there are lifeguards on duty.”
Inspector Guy Summers, lead for the Thames Valley Police and Hampshire Constabulary Specialist Search and Maritime Unit, said: “When the weather turns warm, open water looks inviting but the shock from the cold water and the risks posed by hidden currents and items under water are substantial, even for strong swimmers. This year, cold water shock is a particular threat due to the cold spring we’ve had.
“We often have to deal with the tragic aftermath when things go wrong in the water and I cannot stress enough the importance of familiarising yourself, family and friends with the water safety code this Drowning Prevention Week.“
Ben Voller, Clinical Operations Manager (West Berkshire) at South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, said: “People of all ages can get into difficulty in all types of open water including ponds, lakes, rivers, reservoirs, quarries, docks or at the beach. It is very easy to get into danger without realising the hazards – cold water shock occurs with water temperatures at less than 15 degrees and a cubic metre of water weighs a tonne; imagine trying to fight against that if you’re already struggling. There are also many hidden hazards below the waterline that can soon put you in serious danger. So please take heed of our advice and only swim in places where there are the appropriate safety precautions.
Russell Robson, Senior Specialist from the Environment Agency said: “Our waterways are a fantastic place to enjoy the glorious summer weather, either at the water’s edge or on it. Visitors should remember that even in the summer, inland waters can still be very cold and jumping straight in can be hazardous. Cold water can be dangerous and can cause your body to go into shock no matter how fit you are. If you find yourself in difficulty you need to float until the cold water shock has passed and then swim to the edge or call for help.”
To stay safe around water, please follow our water safety advice:
- Avoid bridge and ledge jumping at all times, often referred to as ‘tombstoning’, as this can cause potentially fatal cold water shock, even on the warmest day.
- Do not be tempted to swim in open water such as rivers, lakes, canals or quarries. You have no idea what is beneath the surface and unseen currents or reeds could pull you under.
- If you do wish to take part in open water swimming, know the difference between designated and non-designated bathing waters and follow the Swim Healthy guidance from Public Health England and Environment Agency and do so as part of a group or an organised event. Avoid swimming alone.
- At the beach, choose a lifeguarded beach and swim between the red and yellow flags.
- If you find yourself in trouble in the water, float to live. Do not panic, float on your back until the effects of cold water shock pass. When the cold water shock has passed, you can then swim to the edge or call for help.
- If someone else falls into the water, call 999 straight away and ask to speak to the Fire and Rescue Service if inland and the Coastguard if at the Coast.
The Water Safety Code is designed to provide simple and easy information to people so they can understand what they should do in an emergency:
- Stop and think: take time to assess your surroundings. Look for the dangers and always research local signs and advice.
- Stay together: when around water, always go with friends or family. Swim at a lifeguarded venue.
- In an emergency, call 999: if you discover someone in trouble in the water, ask for the Fire and Rescue Service inland and the Coastguard if at the coast. Do not enter the water to rescue.
- In an emergency, float: if you are in trouble in the water, stay calm and float on your back until you can call for help.