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Be Water Aware When Near River Banks, Lakes This Spring

50% of those accidentally drown did not intend to enter the water

Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service is supporting the National Fire Chiefs Council's (NFCC) Be Water Aware campaign. The week-long national campaign runs from 29th April - 5 May 2019 and highlights the risk of accidental drowning. Half of the accidental drownings in 2017 happened when people didn't even intend to go in the water. Activities such as running, walking, fishing and cycling near rivers, lakes and other open 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.

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

David Lynch, Area Community Safety Officer, said “Across the country the fire and rescue 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.

“We are working with Bedford Borough Council and other partners to install throwlines and extendable poles to help rescue people and these are being launched in the next few weeks.

“In spring the water in rivers and lakes is still very cold and those falling into water, or jumping in for a swim could find themselves suffering from cold water shock which affects breathing and can cause panic, leading to drowning. People should stay clear of river banks to avoid falling in and should not swim in rivers or lakes where they might get tangled in weeds.”

Advice from Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service:

  • If you are going for a walk or run near water stick to proper pathways and stay well clear of the waters edge;
  • Make sure conditions are safe, avoid walking or running near water in the dark, slippery or in bad weather;
  • If you've had alcohol don't enter the water, avoid walking alone and avoid routes near water;
  • Never enter the water to try and help a person or animal - always call 999 and use any water rescue equipment if it is available;
  • If you are spending time near water - whether at home or abroad make sure you are familiar with local safety information and children are fully supervised.