Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service are supporting the National Fire Chief's Council (NFCC) and asking people to ‘Be Water Aware’. We want to make people safer by making them aware of the risks and dangers when around water, what to do if they fall into water and how to help someone who is in trouble in the water.
Drowning is amongst the leading causes of accidental death in the UK. Being Water Aware aims to encourage people to spend time in and around the water in the safest way possible. Our aim is not to discourage people from enjoying being in or near water but to ensure they are doing it in the safest way possible.
In 2021, in the UK, 258 people accidentally drowned. Many of these people were taking part in activities near water and had no intention of entering the water. Incidents can occur inland at rivers, canals and even in ponds as well as at the coast. Few people think they would be a water incident statistic and following simple advice can reduce the risk. This is as follows:-
- Never swim alone in case you need help.
- Don’t drink alcohol when undertaking water related activities, it impairs your judgment and your ability to swim
- Avoid walking routes near water if you have been drinking alcohol
- Don’t dive or jump 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 to rescue someone, call 999 and ask for the Fire Service inland or the Coastguard if you are at the coast
Activities near water
Many people love to spend time near water. Make sure you know what to do if you or someone else falls in. Never enter the water to rescue your dog, most dogs manage to scramble out but you may not be so lucky.
If you are taking part in a waterside clean-up, stay in a group, be prepared to call for help and keep well back from the edge of the canal or pond.
People on a Night Out
Don’t let a night out end in tragedy - take a safe route home away from water.
- Avoid walking near water even if the path is lit - in the dark you may not see trip hazards or even the water’s edge.
- Stay with your group and don’t wander off if you become separated.
- Keep an eye on friends who are worse for wear and make sure that you help them home.
- Make sure that you store a Taxi number in your phone and some emergency money at home so that you can pay. If the money is at home you can’t lose it or spend it.
Away From Home - The risks of drowning are higher when people are less familiar with the area both at home and abroad. A lack of local knowledge combined with a relaxed holiday outlook can increase the risk of a drowning incident for people visiting areas near water.
- Read safety signs near the beach, keep away from cliff edges and never swim alone.
What to do if someone falls into deep water
- Call 999 or 112 - straightaway. If you don't have a phone shout for help - you may have to look for help but do not enter the water.
- If you are near the coast ask for the coastguard, if you are inland ask for fire service and ambulance.
- The emergency services will need to know where you are. Accurate information can save precious minutes. If you have a smart phone and have location services or map tool enabled, this can help. The What3Words app gives a precise location and is used by many emergency services. If not look around for any landmarks or signs – for example bridges will often have numbers on them which can identify their location.
- Don’t hang up – stay on the line but try and continue to try to help the person if appropriate.
- Encourage them to try and float on their back - if there is rescue equipment nearby throw it to them.
- When you have made the call shout for help from anyone who might be close by.
Human nature says you are likely to want to attempt to help while rescue services are on their way. Never enter the water, keep looking where the person is so you can give information to the emergency services and tell the person to float on their back. People can float for far longer then they can swim if they are panicking.
What to do if you fall in the water - Float to live RNLI
Everyone who falls unexpectedly into cold water wants to follow the same instinct, to swim hard and to fight the cold water. But when people fight it, chances are, they lose.
Fight the instinct to panic or swim.
Lie back and keep your airways clear, push your stomach up and extend your arms and legs, moving hands and feet to help you float.
Try to take and control the effects of cold water shock such as the gasping reflex. Once your breathing is controlled call for help and if possible try making your way towards safety
If you find yourself unexpectedly in the water, do as little as possible, and float.
More information here:-
RNLI Float to Live (suitable for coast and inland)
What to do if you unexpectedly fall into the water (River) -
Water rescue incident
What to do if you fall into water (canal)
What to do if you find someone in the water (canal)
StayWise is a free digital, safety education library with educational resources which can be accessed by teachers, parents and carers.
SkillZONE is the Gloucestershire Fire & Rescue Service interactive life skills centre and has a water scenario in which volunteers teach children these essential water safety messages.