Drowning Prevention and Water Safety Week (24-30 April 2017)


Suffolk Fire and Rescue joined the call by UK fire chiefs to raise awareness of the dangers of everyday activities near water after statistics show that nearly 50% of people who accidentally drown in the UK never intended to enter the water.

The Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) Water Safety and Drowning Prevention campaign – Be Water Aware runs from 24 – 30 April and is being supported by fire and rescue services throughout the UK.

Latest statistics show that in 2015, 321 people died after tripping, falling or simply underestimating the risks associated with being near water.

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 fishermen. They are unaware of the risks and they 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.”

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. This is outlined in the UK’s first Drowning Prevention Strategy, which was launched on 29 February 2016 by Robert Goodwill MP.

The water safety messages that fire and rescue services will be delivering will also raise awareness and support of the safety campaigns run by other members of the National Water Safety Forum (NWSF), which includes Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS),  Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and Amateur Swimming Association (ASA).

Suffolk Fire and Rescue supports Drowning Prevention and Water Safety Week by raising awareness and by working as part of the National Water Safety Forum (NWSF), the NFCC aims to reduce the number of drownings in UK waters by 50% by 2026.

Phil Geeson Tattingstone Bridge
Family of Alton Water ‘tombstoning’ victim Matthew Dunnett back water safety campaign. Matthew’s Sister, Zena Williams and Phil Geeson from Suffolk Fire and Rescue spearheaded the water safety campaign in Suffolk to help prevent other tragedies.

Listen to Zena’s interview on Radio Suffolk here at 7:10 minutes in and see our film on our Facebook page, made with Anglian Water and Zena, about her brother Matthew, who sadly died swimming in Alton Water.

Paul Goodman

Also watch a report by ITV News Anglia’s Chloe Keedy who talks to Zena and to Paul Goodman, Suffolk Fire and Rescue, about the new Water Safety Campaign.

Look out for @SuffolkFire  on Twitter and on Facebook 

Response is not enough – we must prevent drownings.  Fire and rescue services will be giving advice to people on what they should look out for and how to change their behaviour to minimise their risk of becoming one of these statistics.

Here are some helpful tips:

NFCC_dog walking safely advice

NFCC_walking safety advice

NFCC_running safely advice

Advice on what to do if someone falls into deep water

The first thing to do is call for help – straightaway Call 999, if you are near the coast ask for the coastguard, if you are inland ask for fire service and ambulance.

The emergency services will need to know where you are. Accurate information can save precious minutes. If you have a smart phone and have location services or map tool enabled, this can help. If not look around for any landmarks or signs – for example bridges will often have numbers on them which can identify their location.

Don’t hang up – stay on the line but try and continue to help the person if appropriate. When you have made this 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 ever 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.

Can the person help themselves? Shout to them ‘Swim to me’. The water can be disorientating. This can give them a focus. Keep any instructions short clear and loud. Don’t shout instructions using different words each time.

Look around for any lifesaving equipment. Depending on where you are there might be lifebelts or throw bags – use them. If they are attached to a rope make sure you have secured or are holding the end of the rope so you can pull them in.

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. You could attempt to reach out to them. Clothes such as scarves can be used to try and reach or a long stick. 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– you may get pulled in Be mindful that if the water is cold the person may struggle to grasp an object or hold on when being pulled in.

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. It can cause death up to 48 hours after the near drowning incident.

If the person is unconscious you will need to check they are breathing. If they are not breathing they need 5 rescue breathes and then CPR (30 Chest compressions followed by 2 rescue breathes). Continue until help arrives.

If the person is unconscious but breathing put them in the recovery position with their head lower than their body. If they are conscious try and keep them warm. If you can remove wet clothes and give them something dry to put on as they are at risk of hypothermia.

Above all, stay safe around water #BeWaterAware 

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