Drowning Prevention Water Safety Bristol:
Avon Fire and Rescue Service (AF&RS) is continuing to promote water safety in the city and wider area by getting people to ‘buddy up’.
The advice comes as part of Drowning Prevention Week, which runs until 05 May. The campaign is part of the National Fire Chiefs Council’s (NFCC) Be Water Aware Campaign which aims to highlight the risk of accidental drowning.
Bristol has a large number of waterways, docks, rivers and other potentially hazardous locations and we are not far from the coast.
By buddying up near water whether swimming in the sea or walking home after drinking alcohol, people can help to keep each other safe. The fire service say activities including running, walking, fishing and cycling near water increases the risk of accidental drowning.
“Most people would be shocked to hear that those people who drowned just happened to be taking part in everyday activities near water, like going for a run or walk,” NFCC’s Drowning Prevention and Water Safety Lead, Chief Fire Officer Dawn Whittaker says.
“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 and preventable deaths.”
Since April last year, AF&RS were called to five water fatalities in their service area, with 56 water rescues in total.
UK statistics for 2017 show that 255 people accidentally drowned, with 50 per cent of those people just happening to be near water. Men were found to be most at-risk, making up 85 per cent of fatalities. Holidays abroad also pose a risk, with 75 UK nationals drowning in other countries.
Proactive precautions the service has in place includes community outreach, training bar staff in water safety and rescue, new boats for Bedminster and Bath fire stations and the trialling of 5G cameras. There will also be a number of summer safety events to raise awareness.
Risk Reduction Department Manager, for AF&RS, Kirstie Webb said: “When entering the water, minutes really do make a difference. People don’t appreciate how quickly cold incapacitation can take effect – just five minute – with casualties either getting swept away or going below the water.
“Although we are here to help and are doing everything we can to ensure the safety of the public, we are keen to prevent these types of incidents before they even occur.
“The simple act of budding up when out can make all the difference, whether it is on the way home from a night out, running, or fishing, having someone there can prevent an accidental death.”
Fire and Rescue Service advice for staying safe near water:
Buddy up when near water to ensure all your mates get home safely.
Even the strongest swimmers can drown.
Rivers, canals and open water can present a real danger if you’ve had a drink. The water can be extremely cold, and added to the effects of alcohol, can dramatically affect the reactions of even the strongest swimmer.
Plan a route at the start of the night. If your walk home takes you past water could you take an alternative route or get a taxi?
AF&RS Advice for what to do if somebody is in trouble:
Call 999 or 112 – straightaway. If you don’t have a phone shout for help – you may have to look for help but do not enter the water.
If you are near the coast ask for the coastguard, or ask for fire service and ambulance if you are inland.
The emergency services will need as much information as possible to pinpoint where you are, look for landmarks, signs on bridges or use your mobile phones location app or map to help.
Don’t hang up – stay on the line but try and continue to try to help the person if appropriate.
Encourage them to try and float on their back – if there is rescue equipment nearby throw it to them.
When you have made the call shout for help from anyone who might be close by.
Human nature says you are likely to want to attempt to help while rescue services are on their way. 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 even if you are a strong swimmer.
The fire service has successfully reduced the number of fire deaths by focusing on prevention work and now we must apply the same principle to tackling drowning. Response is not enough – we must prevent drownings.