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Be water aware

Swiftwater Rescue team
Date21 April 2017

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS) has joined a call by UK fire chiefs to raise awareness of the dangers of everyday activities near water, after statistics show that nearly 50% of people who accidently drown in the UK never intended to enter the water.

The National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) Water Safety and Drowning Prevention campaign - Be Water Aware - is running from 24 - 30 April and is being supported by fire and rescue services throughout the UK.

Latest statistics show that the total number of UK water related fatalities in 2015 was 644. Of these, 321 were accidental drownings. These people died after tripping, falling or simply underestimating the risks associated with being near water.

TWFRS is advising people to be water aware and to change their behaviour around open water, to minimise their risk of becoming one of these statistics.

As part of the drowning prevention campaign and following a number of river related incidents attended by emergency services in Tyne and Wear, a pilot scheme has been introduced that will literally throw a lifeline to people who fall into the River Tyne on Newcastle’s Quayside.

The scheme is a partnership between Newcastle City Council, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, NE1 and the company SafeQuip Ltd that makes the life aids known as ‘throw bags’ and is donating them for free.

Over the last five years, 49 people have been rescued from the Tyne in the Quayside area by fire and rescue crews. This scheme forms part of a larger TWFRS Drowning Prevention campaign that aims to reduce this number and prevent drowning in all open waters across the region.

Assistant Chief Officer Alan Robson, TWFRS, said: “In Tyne and Wear we have successfully reduced the number of fire deaths by focussing on prevention work. Now we are working hard to apply the same prevention principles to tackling drowning. Response is simply not enough - we must prevent drownings.”

Cllr Tom Wright, Chair of Tyne and Wear Fire Authority, said: “Rivers and other wetland areas pose a clear danger, and we want to get the message across that people must take extra care when on or near open water.

“Public safety is paramount to the fire and rescue service and we are committed to working with partners to ensure this.”

Find out more on our water safety pages.