Yorkshire Water and West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service back Drowning Prevention Week

Partnership raises awareness of dangers of open water.

Float to Live

Yorkshire Water and West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service are reminding people in the region of the dangers of open water, in support of Drowning Prevention Week, which aims to raise awareness of enjoying water safely.

It comes as figures from the National Fire Chiefs Council reveal a total of 124 water rescue incidents were attended by Fire Services in Yorkshire and the Humber in 2021 (57 in West Yorkshire), with 23 fatalities recorded in Yorkshire and the Humber during the 12-month period.

The awareness week runs from 18-25 June and is spear headed by Royal Life Saving Society UK. The awareness week aims to encourage people to enjoy water safely and encourages parents, schools, leisure centres and communities to educate young people to help them stay safe around water.

During the week Yorkshire Water will be hosting a series of water safety assemblies on Wednesday 22 June, with an extra session available on Thursday 7 July.

The 20–30 minute virtual assemblies will be tailored to KS3 and KS4 and will be delivered by the utility company’s education team in partnership with the West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service and the RNLI.

Aligned to Swim England’s water safety messaging, students will learn the dangers of open water, how to keep themselves and their friends safe and what to do in an emergency.

Ash Roberts, public safety and safeguarding manager at Yorkshire Water, said: “As the weather picks up, we tend to see an increase in young people visiting our reservoirs and deciding to take a dip to cool off. It is important they are aware of the dangers posed by open water, with cold water shock, operational machinery and hidden undercurrents all posing a risk to their safety.

“As part of our activity during Drowning Prevention Week our education team will be delivering virtual sessions to children throughout the region. Teachers can still sign up to the lessons, which we are delivering with the support of West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service and the RNLI.”

Jemma Burgess, district prevention manager at West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue, said: “We saw an increase in accidental drownings in our region last year and want to make sure people know how to stay safe around water. 

“Nearly 50 percent of people who accidentally drowned in 2020 had no intention of entering the water. Cold water shock, the pull of flowing water and other hidden dangers can cause even the strongest swimmers to drown.

“Even on a warm day the temperature in open water can remain very cold, causing a physical reaction which can make it difficult to control breathing and make it difficult to swim. If you do find yourself in difficulty, float to live: Lean back into the water, extend your arms and control your breathing, then call and ask for help.

“If someone is in trouble in water, call 999 and importantly, ask for the fire service, as we have the specialist water rescue equipment. Never enter the water to attempt a rescue.”