Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service (LFRS) are supporting the National Fire Chief’s Council’s (NFCC) Be Water Aware campaign. The week long campaign runs from 29 April – 5 May and is a national campaign which aims to highlight the risk of accidental drowning.
LFRS will be focussing their efforts towards runners and walkers, people on a night out and local hotspots. NFCC research showed that in 2017 half of accidental drownings happened when people didn’t even intend to go into the water. Activities such as running, walking, fishing and cycling near water can put you at risk of drowning. On 9 March firefighters from Fleetwood and Preesall were called to assist the coastguards in a dog rescue whereby a dog had been swept 400m from shore. Thankfully the dog’s owner did not enter the water in a bid to save their pet, a decision we’re sure they would have found difficult, but ultimately meant that crews were only conducting one rescue that day rather than multiple.
Group Manager Mark Hutton, from Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service said; “people might be surprised to hear that firefighters deal with water rescues but we have six stations around the county that specialise in swift water rescue and two with specialist boat crews. Activities such as walking your dog or running along a canal can put people at risk of drowning and we hope that our work during ‘drowning prevention week’ will highlight these risks to people.”
LFRS visit numerous schools in Lancashire leading up to half term periods sharing advice on campaigns such as ‘Dying for a Dip’ and ‘What Lies Beneath’ which highlight the dangers of open water swimming especially over the warmer months when water looks so inviting.
Cold water shock is another key theme that the fire service wishes to educate children, young people, their parents and carers when swimming or jumping into open water. Whilst hazards are present all year round, Spring is a particularly dangerous time of year as air temperatures rise quickly but water temperatures remain so low that cold shock (the body’s reaction to cold water that immediately causes breathing difficulties and muscle cramps irrespective of the fitness of the individual) is a very real risk; and one that children and young people are often unaware of. Cold water shock can affect everyone, even strong swimmers and the young and fit as they cannot control their body’s reaction, often resulting in a heart attack.
Mark continues by saying; “We are pleased to be part of the #BeWaterAware campaign as although LFRS will always immediately respond to calls for assistance from inland waterways, and typically our colleagues at the Coastguard and RNLI will respond to incidents at coastal locations, due to the nature of drowning incidents prevention is always far better than cure as no matter how fast the emergency response is sometimes we just cannot get to the location of people in difficulty fast enough.”
It is particularly important for solo runners and walkers, particularly those with dogs, to take just a few moments to reflect on the key messages in this campaign and consider whether they could make small adjustments to their activities that will make them safer as it would be a tragedy if they got into difficulty when they are on their own.”
We would also love for parents and carers to be much more aware of the dangers of cold shock, and discuss it with the children and young people in their care. It is an incredibly sad situation but every year children drown after succumbing to cold shock when swimming or jumping into open water. Parents who have lost loved ones in such circumstances often didn’t know their children had gone off swimming in a river or reservoir. Let’s make this year different, please have those discussions and lets all #BeWaterAware.”
Firefighters and community prevention officers will also be targeting higher education establishments within the county to raise awareness of getting home safely after a night of drinking especially in areas like Lancaster University where the River Lune cuts through the city. Sadly from 2014-2019 there have been thirteen students who did not make it home after a night out due to drowning. They are urging people to never walk home alone, especially if they see someone unsteady on their feet. The NFCC have written to all University Vice Chancellors urging them to share water safety advice with their students.
It is also important to remember that our water safety advice is not only to be adhered to in the UK but also abroad or on holiday. People become more relaxed on holiday and continuing to #BeWaterAware whether that is spending a summer’s afternoon at St Annes beach, a week down in Cornwall or a holiday abroad to Spain. Having and sharing water safety knowledge could be the difference between life or death.
Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service would like people to know some basic water safety information related to the #BeWaterAware campaign:
- Don’t assume you’re not at risk of drowning just because you don’t intend to go into the water
- If someone falls into water call 999. Advise the casualty to try and float on their back and relax. Try and shout for help nearby and throw them something to either drag them to safety or to aid them to float
- Ensure children are fully supervised near water on holiday
- Do not enter the water if you have been drinking or taking drugs
- If you are going running alone try and tell someone where you are going
- Never enter the water yourself to try and save someone