Drowning causes more accidental deaths in the UK annually than fire or cycling.
Hundreds of people drown in the UK every year and thousands more suffer injury – some life changing – through near-drowning experiences. In fact, on average in the UK and Ireland someone loses their life to drowning every 13 hours. Clearly, the need for a much-publicised water safety campaign to act as cultural sea-change for members of the public is as vital as ever.
Reach and Rescue is supporting the National Fire Chiefs Council’s (NFCC) Be Water Aware drowning prevention and water safety campaign. The campaign aims to raise awareness of the risk of accidental drowning. The NFCC is a member of the National Water Safety Forum and is committed to the National Drowning Prevention Strategy which aims to cut water-related deaths by 50 per cent by 2026.
The campaign wants to make people safer by making them aware of the risks and dangers when around water, what to do if they fall into water and how to help someone who is in trouble in water. Since the strategy’s launch in 2016 there has been a 30% decrease in accidental drownings; a stat the NFCC says is “cautiously welcomed.”
Be Water Aware is an annual campaign. This year’s ran between 20th – 26th April with the headline stats publicised as part of the campaign below:
· 263 people accidentally drowned in the UK
· Around 50% of these people just happened to be near water and had no intention of entering the water
· 87% of these fatalities were male
· 77 UK nationals, mainly tourists, drowned whilst abroad in 2018
The work the NFCC does to raise awareness of the everyday risks in and around water is vital. Additionally, Public Rescue Equipment should be part of a whole strategy for drowning prevention too. National guidance from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) centred on public rescue equipment states: “Public Rescue Equipment is an additional mitigation that may afford the victim time or support to enable rescue.”
Highly visible PRE can act as a deterrent, which further supports the aims of the Be Water Aware campaign. Reach and Rescue’s Portsafe public-access water rescue system features effective water rescue equipment contained in lockable boxes – it is a highly visible deterrent and information point which increases awareness of everyday risks in and around water.
For a real-life example: through collaboration with our official water safety partners the Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK), a Portsafe was installed alongside the River Severn in Worcester city centre in a highpoint of their own water safety campaign – Don’t Drink and Drown. This campaign aims to raise awareness of the heightened dangers of water to individuals who have been drinking. In statistics which are echoed in the NFCC’s Be Water Aware campaign, 35% of people who accidentally drowned in 2018 were under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. An unwelcome statistic; the specific location of the Portsafe in Worcester was strategically chosen as this is the location in which student Tom Jones tragically drowned in 2018.
The tragic event of a drowning can cause devastation across communities. Each needless loss of life however must be used as a catalyst to inspire attempts to stop further such tragedies from occurring. One such measure Fire and Rescue Services can do to prioritise attention to the issue of water safety is to ensure measures for water safety awareness, prevention and water rescue appear in their Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP). One such service with a proven record of raising water safety awareness is East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service; strategy for water safety appears prominently in their IRMP .
Understand the role you can take to create water safe communities by downloading our brief guide: