Everyday activities near water can put you at risk of drowning

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Few people would think they might become a water incident statistic. But the fact is in the UK in 2019 more people died from accidental drowning than cyclists did on the road.

The National Fire Chiefs Council’s (NFCC) Be Water Aware campaign will run from 26 April – 2 May. Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service is taking part to encourage people not to be complacent when spending time in and around water. The aim is to encourage people to be safe by being aware of the risks.

Following simple advice will help reduce the 223 accidental drownings reported in 2019 and the many more injuries, which can be life-changing, following water-related incidents.

The advice includes:

• never swim alone in case you need help

• don’t drink alcohol when undertaking water-related activities, it impairs judgement and your ability to swim

• avoid walking routes near water if you have been drinking alcohol

• don’t dive or jumping straight into open water, this can cause potentially fatal cold water shock even on the warmest day

• actively supervise children in and around water – drowning can happen fast and silently

• if you find yourself unexpectedly in the water, don’t panic, extend your arms and legs out and float on your back until the effects of cold water shock pass

• never enter the water to try and rescue someone, call 999 and ask for the Fire Service if inland and the Coastguard if you are at the coast

NFCC’s Drowning Prevention Lead Dawn Whittaker said: “We want people to enjoy spending time in and around water safely and that’s why we are asking people to be water aware. By highlighting this issue and making sure simple safety messages reach them, we hope to reduce the number of these needless and preventable deaths.”

Between 1 January 2011 and 31 December 2020 there were 355 incidents of rescue or evacuation from water, excluding flooding, in Herefordshire and Worcestershire.

Sadly, there were 42 fatalities within this time period. Thirty-three people were taken to hospital with injuries appearing to be serious, 49 people were taken to hospital with injuries appearing to be slight, and 15 people were given first aid at the scene.

Those aged 19-24 were most likely to be involved in this type of incident followed by those aged 30-39.

Look out for #BeWaterAware on social media for more information and advice.