Warm Weather and the Inevitability of Accidental Drowning

Carr Mill Portsafe

When warm weather returns to the UK, the issues surrounding water safety inevitably return too. Why inevitably? Well, we simply see the same thing every year: incidents of water rescue and tragic accidental drowning across mainstream news and social media. In fact, it’s approaching a year since we tragically witnessed a spate of drowning in the north west of England when five unfortunate individuals lost their lives in the space of week at the end of June 2019; a week which prompted us to speculate as to whether the country was in the midst of a water safety crisis.


That’s not to undermine the strong work of water safety campaigners including the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) in their #BeWaterAware campaign. Indeed, the most recent stats from the NFCC indicate cause for cautious optimism with a 30% decrease in accidental drowning since 2016 when the UK Drowning Prevention Strategy was launched. No doubt this reduction is helped in part by organisations such as The Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK) through their water rescue training for businesses within the locale of public waterways. In most cases staff are equipped with emergency throwlines too. This work is in tandem with the Canal and River Trust who are actively re-modelling public waterways by installing barriers, signage and our very own Portsafe, to make these areas safer. Still, worryingly, now the weather is warm, we’re seeing the same repeated cycle of news.  


Today is June 2nd, 2020. Within the last five days we’ve had two men drowning in the River Avon in Bath, warnings for swimmers in probably the most dangerous water in the UK’, and anti-social revellers taking a dip in Exeter Quay. Just yesterday news broke of a young teacher who has tragically died while swimming in a river in Leeds over the weekend.



With the example in Exeter above, we know that Devon and Somerset FRS have worked with pubs and restaurants surrounding the quay to supply emergency throwlines alongside water rescue training for staff. However, with the UK currently still in lockdown, these businesses are closed and with it a chance for rescue. Furthermore, unfortunately, a number of FRS across the UK – including services in Devon and Somerset – are not water rescue trained, and as such would not be able to enter the water to conduct a rescue should the need arise.


This begs the question: who will save the lives of the swimmers in the quay should the worst happen?


This phrase bears repeating: drowning causes more accidental deaths than fire or cycling. What the stories shared in this article demonstrate is that there isn’t a randomness to drowning. The risks are identifiable and therefore preventable. Solutions to eradicate the issue of water safety should appear in every regional fire and rescue authority’s integrated risk management plan. If it doesn’t, why not? It is down to elected members at a regional level to demand an answer to this question.




Portsafe is our approach to public rescue

Learn about our highly visible public-access water rescue system – the Portsafe.


It is your duty to assess the risk of public drowning in your communities.

Download our brief guide to the role of Elected Members, Member Champions and Police and Crime Commissioners in creating water safe communities.


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