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Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service wants people to Be Water Aware to help prevent drownings

Despite the Covid-19 restrictions, Cumbria County Council’s Fire and Rescue Service still wants to raise awareness of water safety and encourage people to Be Water Aware.

The Service is therefore supporting the National Fire Chiefs Council’s (NFCC) Be Water Aware drowning prevention campaign, which runs from 20-26 April.

Cumbria Fire and Rescue carried out more than 200 water rescues between 2015 and 2020. Sadly there were eight fatalities and a further 21 people injured in water rescues across the county during this period, with the highest number of incidents taking place in April and September.

Craig Drinkald, Area Manager – Head of Community Safety, Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service, said: “People should stay at home to stop the spread of coronavirus and save lives. However we are aware that many people will be taking their daily exercise close to open water, so we want to make sure they are aware of the risks, especially when you consider that runners and walkers have the highest incidence of accidental drowning.”

Half of accidental drownings in the UK occur when people didn’t intend to go in the water, so simple steps to raise awareness of the risks around water and how they can be reduced will help prevent these deaths.

In 2018:

  • 263 people accidentally drowned in the UK
  • Around 50% of these people just happened to be near water and had no intention of entering the water
  • 87% of these fatalities were male

NFCC’s Drowning Prevention and Water Safety Lead, Chief Fire Officer Dawn Whittaker, said: “We want people to enjoy spending time in and around water safely. Most people would be shocked to hear 263 people lost their lives last year while spending time near water because they were unaware of the risks and unprepared for the scenario of ending up in the water. By highlighting this issue and making sure simple safety messages reach them, we hope to reduce the number of these needless and preventable deaths.”

Drowning prevention advice:

  • When out walking, or running close to water, keep away from the water’s edge, especially after rain when the ground may be slippery or unstable
  • Never enter the water to try and help a person or animal – always call 999 and use any water rescue equipment if it is available
  • If you are spending time near water make sure you would know what to do if you happened to fall in. The advice is not to panic, float on your back and then either call for help, or swim to safety
  • If you’ve had alcohol don’t enter the water and avoid walking routes near water

The fire service has successfully reduced the number of fire deaths by focusing on prevention work and now we must apply the same principle to tackling drowning. Response is not enough – we must prevent drownings.

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