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Firefighters support national Drowning Prevention Week

Cheshire firefighters are supporting The Royal Life Saving Society UK Drowning Prevention Week (DPW) to help raise awareness around the dangers of being in or near water this summer.

Now in its eighth year, DPW takes place on 19-26 June and is a crucial campaign this year.

Throughout 2020 and 2021, millions of young people have vitally missed the opportunity to swim, leaving a dramatic gap in school swimming and water safety education.

In communities where participation in swimming and water safety activities is already traditionally low, this worrying gap in knowledge and skills, exacerbated by COVID-19, is even bigger.

In Cheshire, over the last five fiscal years (2016-17 to 2020-21), there has been a total of 80 incidents where a person has needed rescuing from water.

In 2020-21 a total of 15 calls were received to help people in water. Sadly, in two of these incidents, lives were lost.

This year, DPW will focus on the impact of COVID-19 and accessibility to water safety advice, with a particular aim to increase participation from, and engagement with, under-represented communities.

Group manager for Prevention at Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service is Steve McCormick. He said: “It’s important that we support The Royal Life Saving Society and its campaign to help prevent accidents happening near water this year, but also we want to encourage parents to teach their children to swim in light of this missed opportunity due to Covid-19.

“Our firefighters get called to many incidents that involve people needing rescuing from water. This includes rescues from rivers, canals, lakes, ponds and reservoirs and helping people who never started their day intending to get into the water, who may have accidentally fallen in. If this happens to someone who can’t swim, then they will panic and won’t be able to help themselves until help arrives.”

Cooling off in rivers, canals, ponds, quarries and lakes can also have deadly consequences. The water may look calm on the surface, but there can be strong undercurrents that could pull even a strong swimmer under the water.

The water may feel warm on the surface, but just a few feet below it can be icy cold. The cold water can affect the stamina and strength of swimmers.

Steve added: “We also want to keep people who can swim safe, particularly children and teenagers, so would advise them not to swim anywhere other than in purpose-built and supervised swimming pools, unless they are members of an organised swimming group or club.”

Key safety tips for staying safe near water:

  • Alcohol and swimming do not mix - stay out of the water if you have been drinking.

  • Never let older children swim in unsupervised areas like quarries, canals or ponds.

  • Never interfere with lifesaving equipment - you might need it yourself.

  • Swimming anywhere other than at purpose built and supervised swimming pools is highly dangerous and is not recommended, unless as part of an organised club.

"If you spot someone in trouble in the water, please call 999 immediately to call for help.

For more information around staying safe around water, please visit our Water Safety guidance on our website." say Cheshire fire and rescue.

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