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Young Firefighters get Water Smart

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Members of the Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service Young Firefighters Association have been getting 'Water Smart', to develop their water safety skills and pilot a new initiative from the Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK).

Sixteen members of the Young Firefighters Association (YFA) from Droitwich undertook the RLSS UK programme designed to give children and young people greater awareness of their own and other people's safety and risks in and around open water, whilst on summer camp on the River Wye.

"Our Young Firefighters are aged 13 to 17 and so are perfectly placed to pilot the new Water Smart award," said Chief Fire Officer Nathan Travis, who attended the training. "The YFA encourages personal responsibility and civic safety and this training programme gets these young people to consider not only their risks while having fun in water, but also to identify possible risks to others around them.

"We want children and young people to continue to enjoy the rest of the summer safely – and swimming can be a fantastic part of this. These Young Firefighters can now confidently help their friends recognise how to swim for fun, safely, by avoiding the cold water of deep quarries and lakes which can lead to drowning tragedies.

He concluded: "Working with RLSS UK and its Water Smart Award perfectly supports our vision of Saving More Lives, via intervention and prevention activities within our communities."

Droitwich Young Firefighters during their Water Smart Award training. (l-r) Firefighter Martin Fouweather; Young Firefighters Frankie, John, Joshua, Logan, Mollie, and Britney; Watch Commander Andy Birch.  Front: District Watch Commander Ade Taylor

So far in 2018, nobody has drowned accidentally in a quarry lake, canal or river in Herefordshire and Worcestershire, and this initiative with RLSS UK aims to maintain this. In the five years 2013 to 2107, 24 people drowned in open water accidents in the two counties. Of those, seven people died during the months of May to September – and one of these people was under 18 years old.

The training was one of activities of the YFA's summer camp, which promotes safety, team-building, confidence-building and independence, during a week of outdoor pursuits including kayaking, mountain biking, climbing and 'escape and evasion'.

The Water Smart Award was launched to members at RLSS UK's annual conference in July. This pilot scheme with HWFRS aims to demonstrate the adaptable nature of the award. It can be adopted for use by a variety of different organisations, reaching a much wider audience.