Drowning prevention charity issues warning as heat wave hits Britain
Let’s not have a repeat of last summer’s tragedies’ – The Royal Life Saving Society UK.
The Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK), the drowning prevention charity, has issued a warning as temperatures across Britain are set to hit a scorching 35C.
The charity has appealed for people to take note of simple safety messages to avoid a repeat of last summer’s tragedies when many people lost their lives cooling off in unlifeguarded open water, not suitable for swimming.
Figures released from the National Water Safety Forum (NWSF), of which RLSS UK is a partner, earlier this month revealed that the peak summer months of July and August witnessed the most deaths in 2014.
So, with temperatures on the rise, it is important people make the most of the weather and enjoy the water but do so safely at sites designated for swimming.
RLSS UK’s Director of Volunteer and Community Education, Mike Dunn, said: “Last year saw a tragic amount of preventable deaths as people flocked to open water sites not suitable for swimming. These sites included rivers, quarries, lakes and reservoirs – all of which have many dangers including very cold water, currents, obstacles and uneven depths. They look so inviting but can be deadly.
“Being aware of the basic principles of open water safety, combined with knowledge and understanding of the hazards, can increase enjoyment and significantly reduce the number deaths each year.
“Any drowning is a tragedy but the number of people who lost their lives last summer was not only extremely sad but extremely worrying.”
Figures show the age group with the highest number of fatalities (27) in 2014 were men aged between 20 and 24. Meanwhile, 0 to 19-year-olds accounted for 11 per cent of deaths (38), of which more than half were teenagers aged 15 to 19 (21).
Leading activities people were taking part in when they drowned included swimming (predominantly in open water) and jumping into open water.
And in response, June 20 – 28 this year saw RLSS UK’s annual campaign, Drowning Prevention Week, focus not only on primary school aged children but young men and boys. The campaign saw the release of ‘Beneath the Surface – the families’ stories’ where a number of brave families speak out about how a loved-one drowning had affected them. It can be viewed on the RLSS UK YouTube channel at http://bit.ly/1emYROT .
This latest warning comes following two deaths on Saturday (27 June) where a 32-year-old man who drowned after getting into difficulty in the water in the Lake District’s Lake Windermere and 42-year-old Jason North who died in the water at Three Cliffs Bay, Swansea after entering the water because he thought his children were in danger.
Chantelle Aston’s brother, 15-year-old Richard Fellows (known as Porky) drowned on 16 March last year when he got into difficulties after swimming with two friends in river pool that forms part of the River Arrow in Redditch, Worcestershire.
She said: “With the weather reaching soaring temperatures, I know kids and young adults will be looking for ways to enjoy the heat. I would just ask them to think twice before going into open water and think what happened to Porky. He was a strong swimmer and it only took seconds for him to get into difficulty. Please, parents and children, listen to the advice which could save lives this summer.”
Mike added: “We want people to enjoy water, but safely and sensibly – using their common sense and listening to advice. Do not be tempted to cool off in open water, we do not want another summer of tragedy.”
Follow the below advice and take note of the dangers to avoid becoming one of the statistics –
- Swim at unsupervised (un-lifeguarded sites) including lakes, quarries reservoirs and rivers
- Jump into the water until you have acclimatised to the water temperature
- Jump into the water from heights or ‘tombstone’
- Swim into deep water which will be colder
- Swim at supervised (lifeguarded) sites
- Swim parallel with the shore, where you can quickly get to safety
- Swim with friends or family, so that you can help each other if you need to
- Look for signs and advice about the specific dangers at the place where you are swimming
- Think about what you will do if something goes wrong
- Contact a reputable outdoor pursuits or coasteering centre if you want to take part in more extreme activities
Dangers of open water include–
- The height of the fall or jump if tombstoning
- The depth of the water – this changes and is unpredictable
- Submerged objects may not be visible
- Obstacles or other people in the water
- Lack of safety equipment and increased difficulty for rescue
- The shock of cold water can make swimming difficult and increase the difficulty in getting out of the water
- Strong currents can rapidly sweep people away
- Uneven banks and river beds
- Water quality eg toxic algal blooms and industrial/agricultural pollution
All of these hazards can be controlled through proper organisation and planning.
If someone is in difficulty in the water –
- Shout reassurance to them and shout for help and ensure the emergency services are on their way (call 999 or 112)
- Without endangering yourself, see if you can reach out to them, extend your reach with a stick, pole, item of clothing, lie down or stay secure. Alternatively throw something buoyant to them such as a ring buoy, part filled plastic container, ball or anything that will float.
- Keep your eye on them all the time and shout reassurance urging them to propel themselves to safety
The NWSF’s Water Incident Database (WAID) breaks down drownings and other water-related deaths by activity, age and location type. For more information on the NWSF and the figures visit www.nationalwatersafety.org.uk.
For more information and interview/spokesperson opportunities contact Porcha Treanor by emailing [email protected] or calling 01789 774495.