Be aware when in and around water

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Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service is asking people to stay safe when spending time in and around water as the temperatures begin to increase.

The call comes as part of the National Fire Chiefs Council’s (NFCC) Be Water Aware campaign which runs this week.

The campaign warns people of the risk of accidentally drowning when in or around water.

HWFRS has been called out to 48 incidents involving death from accidental drowning over the last 10 years with nine in both the Worcester and Wyre Forest areas, six in Evesham and five in Hereford.

There have been 236 incidents over the period of people being rescued or evacuated from open-water sources which does not include flooding.

Some people have no intention of entering the water with slips, trips and falls being accidental factors.

But many others underestimate the risk of jumping into water where unseen hazards and cold water can endanger even the strongest swimmers.

Even on a warm day, open-water temperatures can remain low and cause cold water shock – a physical reaction which creates panic and makes it difficult to control breathing and to swim.

If you do find yourself in difficulty in the water, people are urged not to panic and ‘Float to Live’.

This means leaning back in the water and spreading your arms and legs to stay afloat and control your breathing.

When the effects of cold-water shock have passed, call out for help or swim to safety.

If someone is in trouble in water, call 999 and ask for the fire service.

It is important people call for help rather than entering the water to attempt a rescue as this can often result in emergency services needing to find and rescue more people.

Dawn Whittaker, NFCC’s lead for drowning prevention, said: “Most people would be shocked to hear the number of lives lost simply because people were spending time in and around water.

“These deaths are preventable so we ask everyone to be water aware.

“NFCC works closely with fire services and partners to encourage people to be safe around water and to highlight the risk of accidental drowning.

“As the weather improves, fire services across the country, along with our colleagues in HM Coastguard and RNLI, can be faced with huge numbers of calls to help people in trouble in water.

“By raising awareness now, we hope to keep people safe and reduce the number of injuries and fatalities in water as summer approaches.”