Key message marks launch of Drowning Prevention and Water Safety Week

Mon 24 Apr, 2017

Don't assume you are not at risk of drowning just because you don’t intend to go in the water.

That's the key message at the launch of this year's national Water Safety and Drowning Prevention Week, which starts today (Monday 24 April).

Fire and rescue services across the UK, including Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service, have joined a call by UK fire chiefs to raise awareness of the dangers of everyday activities near water after statistics show that nearly half of people who accidentally drown in the UK never intended to enter the water.

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

Dawn Whittaker from the Chief Fire Officers' Association said: "Most people would be shocked to hear that those people drowning just happen to be near water such as runners, walkers and people who are fishing. 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 deaths."

"Fire and rescue services have 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."

There were 669 water-related fatalities in Great Britain in 2013 – two-and-a-half times the number of people who died in house fires that year.

Three posters containing safety tips have been produced to promote the campaign, which runs until Sunday 30 April.

Advice for dog-walkers | Advice for walkers | Advice for runners

Additional advice if you have been drinking alcohol

  • Stay with your group and don't wander off if you become separated.
  • Keep an eye on any friends who are worse for wear and make sure you help them home.
  • Avoid walking near water even if the path is lit. You may not realise how unsteady on your feet you are.
  • In the dark you may not see trip hazards of even the water's edge.
  • If you fall in after drinking your chances of being able get out of the water are decreased as alcohol impairs even simple movements.
  • Make sure you store a taxi number in your phone and some emergency money at home so you can pay. If the money is at home you can't lose it or accidently spend it.

Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service has Water Rescue Units based at Beaconsfield Fire Station and Newport Pagnell Fire Station. In 2014, Buckinghamshire & Milton Keynes Fire Authority invested £30,000 in replacing the rescue boats at both stations.

Note: The launch of Drowning Prevention and Water Safety Week comes just days after a man died in hospital after being found in the River Thames at Bourne End Marina late on Friday (21 April) . His death is being treated as unexplained but not suspicious by Thames Valley Police. On Saturday (22 April), a man was rescued after his car entered the Grand Union Canal at Stoke Hammond. The picture above was take at this incident.