Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service (RBFRS) is urging Berkshire residents to ‘be water aware’ to reduce the number of people who tragically drown every year. The warning comes as part of Drowning Prevention and Water Safety Week, an initiative led by the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) and supported by fire and rescue services across the UK.
The campaign, which runs from 25 April – 1 May, aims to raise awareness of the everyday dangers of being near water. In 2014, 44% of people who drowned had no intention of entering the water (i) but trips, falls or underestimating the risks associated with being near water resulted in 302 people nationally losing their lives.
Throughout Drowning Prevention and Water Safety Week, RBFRS will be offering advice to people in higher risk groups (e.g. anglers, students and young people, runners and walkers) should look out for and how to change their behaviour to minimise the risk of becoming one of these shocking statistics. There are also simple steps that you can follow if you encounter someone who has fallen into deep water:
- Call 999 straight away and ask to speak to the fire service and ambulance
- The emergency services will need to know where you are. If you do not know the specific location look for landmarks or signs – for example, bridges will often have numbers on them which can identify the location
- Never enter the water to try and save someone, even if you are a strong swimmer
- Shout to the person in the water ‘swim to me’. The water can be disorientating and this can give them a focus
- Depending on where you are there might be lifebelts or throw bags – use them. If they are attached to rope, make sure you have secured or are holding the end of the rope so you can pull them in
Jess James, Station Commander at Caversham Road Fire Station (where RBFRS’ Water Rescue Unit is based), said: “Every year, we attend numerous water-related incidents, many of which, despite our best efforts, have devastating outcomes – and what makes it even more tragic is that so many of them could have been avoided.
“Most people are unaware of the risks associated with open water and are completely unprepared for the scenario of ending up in the water. Often it is people who have slipped, tripped or are trying to rescue someone else. Our advice is simple: be water aware and follow our top tips to keep yourself safe.”