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Be Water Aware Week, stay safe when out by the water

There were 254 accidental drownings in the UK in 2020 and nearly half didn’t intend to enter the water.

Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service (BFRS) is supporting the National Fire Chief’s Council (NFFC) Be Water Campaign, by raising awareness on water safety and helping reduce the risk of accidental drowning. The campaign runs for a week from 25th April – 1st May 2022. Activities such as running, walking, paddle boarding, fishing and cycling near rivers, lakes and other open water can increase the risk of drowning unintendedly.

Statistics gathered by the NFFC, state the following:

  • There were 254 accidental drownings in the UK in 2020
  • Nearly 50% didn’t intend to enter the water
  • 78% of fatalities were male and 22% female
  • 60% of drownings were inland
  • 40% of drownings were costal or at sea

Dawn Whittaker, NFCC’s Lead for Drowning Prevention said “Most people would be shocked to hear that in 2020, 254 lives were lost simply because people were spending time in and around water. These deaths are preventable, so we ask everyone to be water aware.

“NFCC work closely with fire services and partners to encourage people to be safe around water and to highlight the risk of accidental drowning.

As the weather improves fire services across the country, along with our colleagues in HM Coastguard and RNLI, can be faced with huge numbers of calls to help people in trouble in water. By raising awareness now, we hope to keep people safe and reduce the number of injuries and fatalities in water as summer approaches.”

Stacey Moore, Area Community Safety Officer, said “With the weather warming up we start to see more people enjoying our local rivers, canals, lakes and taking trips to the coast, the water can seem inviting to cool off but there may be many hidden dangers, such as submerged structures, deep and extremely cold water that can cause cold water shock.

“It is important to remember to keep everyone safe, the majority of people that end up drowning across the country each year never intended to enter the water in the first place. With paddleboards and kayaks more readily available, we have seen an uptake in their use across Bedfordshire. Please consider if you are a beginner to ensure you have the correct equipment, including a buoyancy aid and the means for calling for help in an emergency, and consider taking some tuition on your chosen craft.

“Remember to Call 999 in an emergency. For inland water ask for Fire Service. In Coastal areas or Estuaries ask for the coastguard”

If ever in difficulty in the water, don’t panic, fight your instinct to thrash around, lean back in the water and float on your back until the effects of cold-water shock pass. Then you can call for help or swim to safety.