World Drowning Prevention Day

Ben Thompson, is pictured, smiling, looking forward at the camera.
Today’s guest blog is from Ben Thompson, Group Manager at Avon Fire & Rescue.

On World Drowning Prevention Day, we join hands with the National Water Safety Forum and other partners to raise awareness and promote the #RespectTheWater campaign. Bristol’s City Hall will be lit up blue tonight with a fire crew present to talk to people about drowning prevention. Our primary goal is to ensure the well-being of both local residents and visitors to our community, after more than 90 water rescues from the Avon Fire and Rescue service area this year. Together, with the support of organisations such as fire services and councils, we strive to create a safer water environment for all.

Look beyond the surface

While water can be enticing, it is essential to recognise the concealed dangers lurking beneath its surface. Rocks, debris, and even unexpected objects like shopping trolleys pose potential threats. Additionally, the ever-changing currents and tides can prove hazardous, even for competent swimmers. By being mindful of these lurking risks, you’ll realise that the allure of the water may not be as tempting as it initially appears. Where there are bye-laws in place, such as those that prohibit swimming in Bristol Harbour and the tidal Avon due to the significant dangers, we ask that you stay out of the water.

Shocking reality

Amidst warm summer weather, particularly during a heatwave, seeking solace in local waters might seem enticing. However, it’s crucial to understand the risks associated with cold water shock. Even on the hottest days, the water in Bristol Harbour, as well as nearby lakes, ponds, or weirs, retains a chilling temperature capable of triggering cold water shock. This can induce panic, gasping for breath, and cause people to inhale water. Should you find yourself in such a situation, remember the life-saving technique of floating by extending your arms and legs until the effects of cold-water shock subside.

Walk the line

A staggering 50% of water-related emergency calls involve individuals who never intended to enter the water. This serves as a vital reminder that even if you’re merely enjoying a relaxing moment by the water’s edge without any plans to swim, caution remains paramount. Always supervise children in the vicinity of water, prioritising their safety above all.

Call, tell, throw

Should you come across someone in distress in waters, it may be instinctive to dive in and provide assistance. However, this spontaneous reaction places you at high risk as well. Instead, when encountering such a situation, promptly call 999 and request the fire service for inland water emergencies or the coast guard for coastal areas. Instruct the person in distress to adopt the “float to live” technique by spreading out their arms and legs while offering them throwlines or floatation aids to help their survival.

A deadly cocktail

Alcohol serves as a significant contributing factor in numerous drowning incidents, particularly affecting young men. Consuming alcohol impairs motor skills, reducing the ability to navigate the water’s edge safely, swim and get yourself out of trouble. Therefore, if you’ve been drinking, it is crucial to choose a safe route home while consciously avoiding bodies of water. Look out for your friends and those around you, making sure that nobody gets left behind and alone near the water.

We want you to relish your summer days without any untoward incidents. By remaining prepared, understanding the risks, and being aware of emergency protocols, you can actively contribute to a safer water environment.

The National Water Safety Forum's World Drowning Prevention day poster is pictured. A background of the ocean has the World Drowning Prevention Day logo in the top right, with text reading: Anyone can drown, no one should. The National Water Safety Forum logo is in the top right of the image. A white box with three cartoons is pictured. On the left a cartoon of a mobile phone has text underneath: Call 999 and ask for the right service. In the centre of the image a cartoon of a person floating has text beneath: Tell them to float on their back. On the right a cartoon of a life float, with text reading: Throw them something that floats.