West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (WYFRS) is urging people across the region to ‘#Be Water Aware’ for Water Safety and Drowning Prevention Week (24 -30 April).
WYFRS has joined a call by UK fire chiefs to raise awareness of the dangers of everyday activities near water after statistics show that nearly 50% of people who accidently drown in the UK never intended to enter the water in the first place.
The service wants the public to #BeWaterAware and to never assume that you’re not at risk of drowning just because you never intended to go in the water.
Over 300 people died in the UK in 2015 after tripping, falling or simply underestimating the risks associated with being near water.
WYFRS responded to over 180 water related incidents across West Yorkshire between 2012 and 2016 – 10 of which turned out to be fatal.
Throughout the week, crews will be out promoting water safety in communities around West Yorkshire and giving advice on how to minimise the risk of becoming one of these statistics.
During Water Safety and Drowning Prevention week WYFRS will be posting messages on social media using the hashtag #BeWaterAware. Drowning prevention and raising awareness is better than response and rescue or recovery.
Deputy Chief Fire Officer, Dave Walton, said: “West Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service is committed to securing the safety of the community which we serve.
“Traditionally we have focussed on fire and road safety, but as the leading agency for water rescue within West Yorkshire we seek to prevent people getting into a drowning scenario in the first place, and helping them to survive if they find themselves in that unfortunate position”
National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) Water safety Lead, Dawn Whittaker, said “Most people are unaware of the risks and are totally unprepared for the scenario of ending up in water.
“By highlighting this issue and making sure simple safety messages reach them we hope to reduce the number of these needless deaths.”
The water safety messages that fire and rescue services will be delivering will also raise awareness and support of the safety campaigns run by other members of the National Water Safety Forum (NWSF), which includes Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS), Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and Amateur Swimming Association (ASA).
Safety Advice for Runners, Walkers
- Make sure your walk or run is suitable for your fitness level
- Consider joining a running or walking group
- Be aware and take notice of any warning signs
- When running or walking next to water, stay clear of the edges
- River banks and cliff edges may be unstable and give way
- Wear appropriate footwear and clothing
- Take a fully charged mobile phone and check signal strength, know how to use it and who to call in an emergency
- Look out for trip or slip hazards – pay attention to your footing
Safety Advice for Dog Walkers
- Avoid throwing sticks or balls near water for dogs – they will go after it if they think you want it back even if you’ve thrown it too far or into dangerous water
- Never enter the water to try and save a dog – the dog usually manages to scramble out
- Even dogs that like swimming can usually only swim for short bursts – keep and eye of your dog and don’t let it enter the water if it’s older or tired
- If your dog loves the water keep it on a lead and make sure you have control to prevent it jumping into hazardous or unsafe areas
- Remember the wet riverbanks, steep edges or jagged rocks can make it hard for a dog to scramble out and be a slip risk for owners
- Don’t lean into water and try and lift your dog out – you can topple in
- Dogs can have cold water shock too
- If your dog has struggled in the water it may have inhaled water and should see a vet as dogs can drown after the event if water has entered the lungs
Safety Advice for Anglers
- Check forecast and weather conditions before you go
- Make sure you let someone know where you are going to fish
- Be careful if you are wading in water- waders can fill with a water making it hard to move and currents can be strong and pull you over
- Make sure you know exactly where you are – consider something like an OS locate app for a smart phone or a map
- Give them an idea of when you are likely to return
- Take a fully charged mobile phone and check signal strength, know how to use it and who to call in an emergency (999 or dial 112 if your signal is weak – this connects you to another stronger network for the purpose of making an emergency call)
- Double check your fishing spot. Is it safe? For example, riverbanks can erode and just because it was safe one day doesn’t mean it still is
- Always dress appropriately, sturdy footwear, sun hat in hot weather, warm layers in cold
Safety Advice for Drinkers
- 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
What to do if someone falls into deep water:
- The first thing to do is call for help – straightaway. Call 999, ask for fire service and ambulance. The emergency services will need to know where you are. Accurate information can save precious minutes. If you have a smart phone and have location services or map tool enabled, this can help.
- Don’t hang up – stay on the line but try and continue to help the person if appropriate.
- Never ever 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
- Can the person help themselves? Shout to them ‘Swim to me’. The water can be disorientating. This can give them a focus.
- Look around for any lifesaving equipment. Depending on where you are there might be lifebelts or throw bags – use them. If they are attached to a rope make sure you have secured or are holding the end of the rope so you can pull them in.
- If there is no lifesaving equipment look at what else you can use. There may be something that can help them stay afloat – even an item such as a ball can help.
- You could attempt to reach out to them. Clothes such as scarves can be used to try and reach or a long stick. If you do this lie on the ground so your entire body is safely on the edge and reach out with your arm. Don’t stand up or lean over the water– you may get pulled in.
- Be mindful that if the water is cold the person may struggle to grasp an object or hold on when being pulled in.
WYFRS will be putting on a variety of events throughout the week to hand out safety advice to members of the public:
All Week Millennium Square
Monday 24th Brighouse Swimming Pool: Crews are displaying our Module 4 water rescue equipment
Tuesday 25th Rastrick crews will be launching their boat in the canal and giving water safety advice.
Friday 28th Slaithwaite/Marsden, Huddersfield University & Kirklees College
29th April Ossett trinity walk shopping centre 11-1pm.