AF&RS is asking people to buddy up this Drowning Prevention Week

Avon Fire and Rescue Service (AF&RS) is asking for people to buddy up this Drowning Prevention Week (29/04 – 05/05).

The move comes as part of the National Fire Chiefs Council's (NFCC) Be Water Aware Campaign which aims to highlight the risk of accidental drowning. 

In the last financial year, AF&RS attended five water fatalities across the Service area, and 56 incidents in total.

The Service working hard in the community to ensure people are as safe as they can be, by training bar staff in water safety and rescue, providing new boats to Bedminster and Bath fire stations, trialling 5G cameras and planning a summer of safety events to raise awareness.

However, with half of all drownings across the UK in 2017 being accidental, with people not intending to enter the water, the Service is asking people to buddy up to help keep themselves safe.

Activities such as running, walking, fishing and cycling near water can put you at risk of drowning.

In 2017:

  • 255 people accidentally drowned in the UK
  • Around 50% of these people just happened to be near water
  • About 85% of these fatalities were male
  • In addition, 75 UK nationals, mainly tourists, drowned whilst abroad in 2017

Kirstie Webb, Risk Reduction Department Manager, for AF&RS, 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.”

NFCC's Drowning Prevention and Water Safety Lead, Chief Fire Officer Dawn Whittaker, added: "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.

“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."

Fire and Rescue Service advice:

  • 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?

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.