Day 7- #BeWaterAware – When Normality Returns

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Today is the final day of the NFCC campaign for 2020…..but the messages shared and water safety work will continue through the year.

The campaign planned theme for today was “Away from Home” and of course in normal circumstances on a sunny Sunday at the end of April many families would probably have been heading out to the coast or for a day out in the countryside…..but not at the moment  hopefully, as we should all be complying with the guidance to stay home and not make any journey that is not essential.

The messages that many have shared and adapted in the current climate about taking care when going out for your one permitted daily exercise have been good …and it may seem to you a bit odd that today I am choosing to highlight holidays and foreign travel, but there is a reason……..I suspect that when we see the lockdown lifted….even if that doesn’t start for a month or two…people will be desperate to get out and have trips….either staycations or when air travel opens up…to have a holiday. I also suspect that places like Spain, Portugal, Turkey will be desperate to attract British visitors back and there maybe some fantastic value deals on offer….so because of that I think it’s important to prepare and make you aware

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In 2018 77 UK nationals drowned abroad, 70% of that number were tourists and critically it’s important to know that many more children are involved in drowning instances abroad than at home …in swimming pools. That last statistic is important if you are taking children on holiday and planning lots of pool time, which they love, but there are some important points…the regulations that related to pool safety are not as strict in some countries, you may want to check if the resort you are choosing has a lifeguard or pool attendant on duty and most importantly…when you go, supervise and watch children when they are in water.

A couple of years ago a colleague of mine was abroad on holiday with his own family…he  works in the emergency services, so he is trained to be tuned into risk and assessment of situations. At the poolside one day, he and his partner were taking it in turns to relax in the sun and watch their children in the pool and whilst he was “on watch” he observed a developing situation……he ran to the pool, dived in and saved a life. What had happened ….a young girl that he didn’t know, with long hair had been enjoying herself in the pool and had decided to do an underwater handstand ….sadly she was close to an underwater vent for the filtration system and it sucked her hair into the vent, so strongly that she could not get free and was trapped …she would have drowned if my colleague had not been watching and reacted quickly to save her ………it’s that simple.

In 2018 we saw 243 accidental drownings occur in UK, whilst in Spain there were 473 and 25% of that number were foreign nationals ….of which the highest % were from UK. These are just facts and not intended to put anyone off going to Spain with their family as it’s a wonderful country, with friendly people and with some really good value packages….what it is intended to do is raise awareness and encourage people to #BeWaterAware even when on holiday….make some enquires before you book with your travel agent or the venue about pool safety, whilst on holiday you must supervise your children and keep an eye on them as accidents can happen so easily and also when you are at the beach….home or away….please do not use inflatables in the sea….it’s not safe unless you have them secured by a rope being held by an adult, as tides and off shore breeze can so quickly take them out to sea.  I know the 🦢 swans, flamingo 🦩 and unicorns 🦄 floats and inflatables look fun, but they are only safe in pools and by law should be marked as unsafe for use in the sea……much better to spend your money on a buoyancy aid or flotation aid for your kids, which will help keep them safer while they have fun in the water.

Finally, as this is the last day of the campaign…I want to say a huge thanks to everyone who has contributed and those that have shared messages and the fantastic organisations that help us all be safer in the water in the UK ….there are many of those …but in particular ROSPA, RNLI, RLSS and our wonderful Coastguards and Lifeguards out on the sharp end. I also want to pay a heartfelt tribute once again to the families that have been impacted by a drowning that use their stories and voices to raise awareness 💙 and the VERY last thank you I have is for my colleagues in the UK Fire and Rescue Services and NFCC media team who produce and deliver this campaign…you are water safety warriors and you are helping to save lives 💙

#BeWaterAware  #StaySafe   #StayHome   #ProtecttheNHS

 

Day 6 -BeWaterAware – Missing after a night out…the families

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Yesterday the focus of this blog was young drinkers and the facts and statistics associated with drowning, today we will focus on the truth behind the data…..the human story behind these incidents and the safety advice a few families want to share

Yesterday in making the point that many people, either in the past or perhaps fairly recently  have had a drop too much alcohol on a night out, perhaps just when socialising or maybe celebrating an event …..what I was beginning to emphasise was the potential for risk of an accident or injury is quite common.

Over the years, in working with families impacted by the loss of a loved one as a result of drowning, one of the hardest things to see is when others pass judgement on the casualty and make hurtful comments on social media when they are aware the individual has been drinking….some examples …’He was drunk, so it was his fault’…..‘ take the risk, pay the price’ ….’yet another p****d student who has wasted tax payers money’….sometimes I respond to such comments when I see them as they infuriate me, not only because of the lack of human empathy for the bereaved family, who often read their comments whilst grieving….but also because of their ignorance of the full facts of the incident….often the contributory facts are far from simple…..think for a moment….the young women who had her drink spiked in the club, the young man who had tried to get home in a taxi/bus, but was refused passage because he had been drinking, the young person whose friends had dared them to skinny dip after a skin full, the young man who was unfamiliar with the area and in the dark stepped of the path into the river which had no railings….some of these real cases where not about the choices the casualty made …although they did choose to have a few drinks….the contributory factors are sometimes about the behaviours of others….worth thinking about perhaps before passing comments on social media reports of a fatality

The bravery of a bereaved family to speak up or contribute to one of many campaigns to improve water safety or prevent drowning is very significant…and what is their motivation to do that? I can assure you it does not help them to deal with their grief when they get such reactions (above)…but they do it because they do not want to think their loved one died in vain…nor see another family experience the pain they are feeling, they want simple safeguards to be put in place…they want to warn, inform and educate others about just how frequently this happens and reality that one night out can end a life and devastate a family.

The National Fire Chiefs Council and other members of the National Water Safety Forum are grateful to the families that have contributed their voices to the #BeWaterAware #DontDrinkandDrown #RespecttheWater and other campaigns and we are all hopeful that hearing a few of these stories makes people think about their own behaviours…..whether it’s the people in the night club who throw out a person who has had too much to drink without a care for their safety, the predators who spike drinks of young women, the landowners who could improve the safety of their sites for minimal cost to reduce risk, the pubs that serve cheap shots and continue to serve drinks to people who have had too much, the mates that dare their friends to do something dangerous…because it will be a laugh, to the taxi, bus drivers who have refused safe passage hope to someone just because they have been drinking (they are not being sick or aggressive) ……just watch and listen

Daniel’s story

Charlie’s Story

Shane’s story

Megan’s story…and other families impact by a drowning….not connected to alcohol

Day 5 – #BeWaterAware – Missing after a night out

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Today’s message focus is young drinkers…and I will set out the facts and statistics…..tomorrow on Day 6, the focus will be similar…but touch on the human story behind these incidents, behaviours and the safety advice to share

There won’t be many amongst you that haven’t in the past or perhaps fairly recently  had a drop too much alcohol on a night out, many drinking socially or to celebrate something, but the reality is that we also know that there is a very significant statistical correlation between excessive use of alcohol and drowning in the UK.

In 2018 the National Union of Students published a survey of over 2,000 UK students which concluded that ‘ It is concerning that university life is still strongly associated with excessive alcohol consumption. More so, many think that others drink to fit in with their peers.‘

https://www.nus.org.uk/en/news/press-releases/new-survey-shows-trends-in-student-drinking/

Sadly every year during September (freshers week period) and December (Christmas party season) spikes in student deaths from drowning occur….but the factors that affect this are not just the amount of alcohol consumed, they are also to do with the fact that students may be away at Uni in their first year and not know the town or city very well and get disoriented when returning home after a night out…also the location of student accommodation in relation to the night time economy areas is an issue …particularly if main walking routes between the two are by riversides without lighting or safety barriers.

But it’s not just students…other research has confirmed that the majority of men who go missing on a night out are under 35yrs old and will have been drinking…..stag dos and Christmas parties/ nights out feature….it’s tragic when a night out celebrating ends with someone not making it home to their family.

www2.port.ac.uk/media/contacts-and-departments/icjs/csmp/Missing-on-a-night-out-update_2019.pdf

The National Water Safety Forum (NWSF) who are a collective of organisations, charities and agencies who promote water safety and who are the authors of the UK Drowning Prevention Strategy (2016-2026) also produce through WAID an annual report of drowning statistics and collaborate to focus water safety campaigns on target audiences that are higher risk….young, male drinkers are the key audience for the Royal Life Saving Societies ‘Dont Drink and Drown’ campaign and similarly the RNLI have targeted similar audiences in the past as part of their RESPECT THE WATER campaign

https://www.rlss.org.uk/Pages/Category/dont-drink-and-drown

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The most recent annual NWSF report identifies that in 2018 that of the 243 accidental drownings that occurred, 230 of those were male, 92 had consumed alcohol or drugs and the age profile of the 92 were that 45 of them where under 35.

https://nationalwatersafety.org.uk/waid/reports-and-data/

The facts and statistics speak for themselves …we need to do more to raise awareness and increase the education for young men to reduce UK drownings after a night out.

Day 4 #BeWaterAware -What to do if you fall In?

C1CCA12B-8336-4269-8194-378276D33847Sometimes people incorrectly assume that those who get into difficulty or drown in water intended to be in the water, had gone for a swim or involved in water sports ….in fact that is not accurate. The highest incidence level in the UK is actually from people slipping or tripping when out walking or running.

So what do you do if you fall in ?

if it’s not deep, then hopefully you can get yourself out, but take care if you have swallowed or inhaled water…you may still need to seek medical attention

If it’s deep or you can’t exit and if you have a companion they can obviously help or shout to attract other passers by attention so someone knows you are in difficulty and can ring to get help….that doesn’t mean phone a mate, that means ring 999 if inland ask for the Fire and Rescue Service or at the beach/ coast ask for thé Coastguard

However In the event you are alone you need to think ‘Float to live’ and if you haven’t seen the RNLI video…watch it, this technique saves lives and buys time. (Link below)

If you do have someone to help and they have rung the emergency services, you can ask them to try and throw you any nearby PRE  …public rescue equipment…many water ways now have life buoys/rings or throwline boards ….failing that a ball or something else that floats, just to help you keep you head above water as you can quickly tire in cold water or if you have tried to swim or been treading water.5CCBA9DD-5566-4688-8F3F-78E87263FCD5

Or they may be able to reach out to you with an object…a fishing pole, a long branch, an oar or anything close at hand so you can be pulled in ….

We don’t advise other people to jump in and try to rescue you, but if they do, don’t panic and try to grab them….or we risk having two casualties….stay calm and allow them to assist if they can to help keep you afloat or get you to the shore/ waterside.

If you do get out before the emergency services arrive, then try and get warm if you can as shock may set in…..if you are not out of the water and they need to perform a rescue don’t panic as they may need to get into special rescue kit or get rescue equipment out before they can perform a rescue.

Knowing what to do can make all the difference …save a life …take 10 minutes now to ensure you know what to do. Also we encourage everyone that can to learn CPR and basic first aid….knowing what to do if someone goes into shock or has suffered trauma or has a heart attack can also save lives.

Watch the video below now….know how to Float…..even if you don’t need to do it personally you may have to help someone that has fallen in.

Day 3 of #BeWaterAware – Away from home

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Of course at this moment when we find ourselves all involved in lockdown due to the Corona virus epidemic, no one is away from home, UK beaches are pretty much closed, no one is able to take weekend trips and foreign holidays may seem like a dream….but this won’t last forever and there are a few important things to consider as part of the BeWaterAware campaign for when lockdown lifts ….

Today my blog focuses on the UK and by that I mean when we take day trips or domestic holidays away from our own home area in the UK.  We are blessed, as a small island we have lots of beautiful coastline, in fact the mapping authority for the United Kingdom, the Ordnance Survey, records the coastline of the main island, Great Britain, as 11,072.76 miles rounding to 11,073 miles (17,820 km), alongside lovely lochs, lakes, canals and rivers…it’s no wonder that water plays such an important part in our leisure activity.

One of the important things to remember when you are away from home visiting a new area is that you may not be as familiar with the water risks in that area, for example Camber Sands beach in Sussex has beautiful long stretches of sand …but is prone to sandbars, shifting underwater levels, which means that the unaware can find themselves quickly out of their depth, as compared with some of the beautiful coastline in Wales or Devon which are surfers 🏄‍♀️ paradise due to the waves …but some of which are prone to Rip Tides, which can quickly catch you out if you don’t know what they are (rivers in the sea) and how to get out of them. Equally the Thames and the River Ouse have beautiful spots along their length, but both are tidal rivers and it’s important to know the tidal patterns and forecasts.

So a few simple things to consider when visiting the British coastline…

1. Choose a lifeguarded beach – not only will they know the beach well and be able to give advice, but if you want to swim, safe areas will be designated.

2. Follow the advice on signage…particularly warning signs which will advise where it’s safe and not safe, for example some coastal cliff areas are prone to landfall

3. Know your flags – there are lots of sources of advice….but you would be amazed at the number of adults I talk to that don’t know.400BACF0-EF64-4E2D-B7AA-732BEEF182DA

4. Know your limits…and that of your friends and family ….whether you are swimming, surfing or paddle boarding, you will know your level of competence and ability so think about that ….a swim out to ‘that rock’ might be fine for some in your group, but not for others and particularly young males like to push their boundaries

5. Take sensible precautions and don’t add to your own risk….a few things here…

NEVER enter the water after drinking alcohol…they do not mix well and too many drownings in UK are caused by alcohol, as it affects judgment and impairs motor skills

Wear a life jacket if you are undertaking water sports and consider a buoyancy aid for young children even if they are only paddling, protective personal equipment saves lives

When you have soaked up the sun and decide to go and cool off…be aware of the temperature shift and impact on your body…UK waters remain cold even in the height of summer and diving in can cause shock…cold water shock is a known factor in many UK drownings, so be sensible, walk in and acclimatise and get over that initial gasp BEFORE you fully enter the water.

5. When you visit a new beach area, it’s wise to just notice if there is a first aid station or locations of PRE ( rescue equipment) …whether it’s sunstroke, weaver fish, cuts on rocks or glass…each year many people need to use these facilities. You may even think it worth carrying a small first aid pack in your beach bag with waterproof plasters if you have kids with you.

All of this is just sensible advice, we all want people to enjoy their time off, relax and enjoy the water or water sides safely, but unlike road users there is no test to pass to keep you safe so a bit of self awareness and water safety advice is important.

When the lockdown ends it’s likely our coast will be busy, so use the time wisely before that and make sure you and your family are #BeWaterAware

 

 

Day 2 #BeWaterAware 2020

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Today the campaign focuses on activities near water as more than 50% of people who drowned in 2018, did not expect to enter the water.
Some of these deaths are due to intoxication on nights out, however, many people were just undertaking everyday activities near water such as running, walking, exercising a dog or fishing.

The aim of our campaign is simply to increase awareness of the everyday risks in, on and around water

Why…..well because if people are not anticipating entering the water, they would not reasonably be expected to be prepared and won’t be wearing a life jacket and possibly are not wearing the appropriate clothing.

Water in the UK remains cold, even on very warm days and sudden immersion can lead to cold water shock, which can cause gasping and intake of water and is a common factor in drowning in UK if people don’t know how to deal with it and acclimatise their bodies

Alcohol and/or drugs can be a factor, as people are not only more likely to take risks when under the influence of these substances, but they may also have reduced Levels of perception and motors skills if they enter the water.

It is believed pre-existing medical conditions can also play a part in drowning ( either as a reason for entering the water or not being able to self rescue)

Behaviours:
Often solitary – two-thirds of analysed coastal walking fatalities were alone at the time of the incident.

Runners are often distracted by their activity, maybe with headphones and may not notice the hazards of slippery or eroded paths

We know that risk taking…dares, jumping from height (tombstoning) is also a factor in drownings, particularly amongst young males, with poor understanding or risk perception. Even if they don’t drown, many incurring injuries.

Safety Advice:
Make sure your walk or run is appropriate for your fitness level even if you are just taking a leisurely stroll, maybe consider joining a running or walking group.

Be aware and take notice of any warning signs….they are there for a reason.

When running or walking next to water, stay clear of the edges

River banks and cliff edges may be unstable and give way – particularly after bad weather.

Wear appropriate footwear and clothing – even if you are just going to stretch your legs

Take a fully charged mobile phone and check signal strength, and know who to call in an emergency (999 Fire and Rescue for inland or Coastguard at the coast)

Make sure you know exactly where you are – consider something like an OS locate app for a smart phone or a map

Don’t leave your mates on the way home from a night out….make sure everyone gets home.

Dares can be disastrous, if you care about your friends don’t get them to do things that could harm them, that’s not being a mate.

#BeWaterAware 2020

So we are here ….the annual NFCC #BeWaterAware campaign
For those that don’t know…I lead the National Fire Chiefs Council work on Water Safety and Drowning Prevention and have been doing this since 2013.
Since that time we have worked with the National Water Safety Forum in UK, published a strategy, co-ordinated campaigns, raised awareness, lobbied Government and developed education packages and projects such as safety signage and water side personal rescue equipment….and most importantly seen the number of accidental drownings in the UK decrease.

In 2013 we saw 381 deaths in the UK from accidental and natural causes (people falling in water sometimes have a heart attack before they drown) …but in 2018 that same figure was 263. The 2019 data will be published in May.

I also work closely with lots of family advocates …families that have lost someone to drowning …and support the UK FB group FAD – Families Against Drowning

So this week you will see quite a lot from me about Water safety as we raisin awareness …please feel free to join in or RT, you could help save a life …our campaign uses the hashtag #BeWaterAware and if you are on Twitter, please follow National Fire Chiefs Council – NFCC on @NFCC_FireChiefs for more details . Also talk to your family about water safety….it’s as important as Fire safety and Road safety.

Thank you

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Flooding

It’s been quite a while since I have written a blog on here, but scenes of the last few weeks have spurred me to do so.

Apart from the fantastic work by the emergency services and volunteers to help those in the worst affected flood areas, we have seen some real devastation …not only loss of homes, possessions and businesses …but sadly also lives.

Many of you may have seen the stunning footage of the RNLI Hastings Shannon lifeboat going out to a call during a severe storm to search for a wind surfer….the boat nearly capsized, but it’s fabulous design and skilled coxswain righted it to continue its work, though I know the crew were fairly shaken after it.

We have also seen 100s of people rescued from vehicles that have become stuck in flood water …how many times have we got to advise people not to drive into flood water? Apart from risking lives, it’s highly likely your insurance will not pay out and it if you get water in your engine it’s expensive/ write off.

The most frustrating for me is those that choose to put themselves in a very high risk situation because they …have to catch that wave, take that photo, have drunk too much to even understand…..time and time again they put the professionals and volunteers at risk so their lives can be saved….sadly education won’t stop some of these people…all that can sometimes help is the real stories of those families that have lost love ones to the power and cold of the water. So once again I am thanking those families for sharing their painful experiences…and also all those involved and putting themselves in harms way to rescue those in peril.

Our NFCC water safety campaign #BeWaterAware will run again in April…please do check out the hashtag on Twitter for all year around support

Thank you

If you drink…you may sink

As we move into the final 3 days of the 2019 NFCC #BeWaterAware campaign and bank holiday our focus turns to a high risk group….young adult drinkers that have over indulged and ended up in the water

Earlier this year, NFCC wrote to all Universities in UK and set out Five Steps for them to consider :-
1. Universities should include in their student information and induction packs information about water safety and drowning
prevention.

2. To ensure risk assessments of bodies of water within the university estates are undertaken with clear action plans in place to reduce risk.  RoSPA’s / RLSS document ‘water safety at inland waterways’ Provides good advice.
3. To engage with national awareness raising campaigns – there are several of these each year, including the RLSS UK ‘Don’t Drink and Drown’ campaigns. Water safety campaigns from NWSF members run throughout the year. the 2019 dates for ‘Don’t Drink and Drown’ are 12-19 September 2019 and 2-8 December 2019 .
4. Assess and communicate safe walking routes in the area after a night out and provide advice and guidance to students during Fresher’s week and during peak periods of risk such as Christmas parties, or post exams.
5. To consider making available student training for lifesaving, first aid and resuscitation skills. These are widely available and can be free through local responder agencies. RLSS, RNLI, Red Cross, St John Ambulance even your local ambulance service may offer these

Priority messages for young adults on a night out

🍷 Alcohol reduces inhibitions and can lead to risk taking behaviour
🍸 Alcohol will impair judgment and self control
🍻 Stay with your friends  and don’t wander off and Keep an eye on any friends who are worse for wear and make sure you help them home
🍹 Avoid walking near water even if the path is lit, you may not realise how unsteady on your feet you are
🚕 Make sure you store a taxi number in your phone and have some emergency money at home so you can pay. If the money is at home you can’t lose it or accidentally spend it….Plan how you are getting home before you start your night out

please don’t let a night out become your last one #BeWaterAaware

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When away from home

We all look forward to holiday season …..and often holidays involve time by water…beaches, pools, harbours…rivers…it’s relaxing and fun…whether that is in the UK or abroad, near the coast or at inland beauty spots.

Lack of local knowledge about an area combined with a relaxed outlook can mean an increase risk of drowning and sadly every year British people die in water abroad

Advice for the beach
• Secluded beaches are not safe beaches – use a life guarded beach during patrolled hours. If you have children they will want to run and play…you need a second pair of eyes and it is important to remember that it is up to you to correctly supervise children not Lifeguards.

• Dress your children in something nice and bright/ distinctive – it is easier to keep an eye on them.
• Make sure your children know what to do, or where to go if they get lost – agree a meeting point. Many beaches have wristband systems that you can write your Mbl on in case families get spilt up on busy beaches.

  • Inflatables look fun…those big unicorns 🦄 and flamingos ….but they are not designed to be used on the sea and can quickly be carried out of safe depth by wind and tides.

• Check tides. These can changes at different times of the year – It might have been safe last time you holidayed here – doesn’t mean it is this time
• Be aware of rip tides and currents – they can drag you out to sea and are almost impossible to swim against – https://rnli.org/safety/know-the-risks/rip-currents
• Look for safety information, this might be local signs or flags on display at the beach and obey them
• Never enter the water after drinking alcohol.

if you plan to take a boat trip, or hire a jet ski or get on a banana! ….please wear a lifejacket
Advice for the pool
• Alcohol should be avoided – never swim after drinking and don’t drink next to the pool – it is very easy to feel drowsy or fall asleep after drinking in the sun- you may not notice a child enter the water.
• Check the rules for pools before you go on holiday in some countries pools should be fenced off
• Don’t think arm bands or a rubber rings prevent drowning
• Clear trip hazards (such as toys) from around the pool
• Never leave a child unsupervised near or in a pool – not even for a second
• Don’t assume you will hear if there is a problem – children can slip below the surface silently
• Don’t assume because a hotel pool has an attendant or lifeguard you don’t need to supervise.

Have a fab holiday…just #BeWaterAware

 

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