Emergency services unite as part of World Drowning Prevention Day

As the holiday season begins for thousands of families across the region, emergency services have united to urge the public to take care around the water.

Today (Monday) marks the beginning of the school summer holidays for millions of children but it also marks World Drowning Prevention Day.

Last week soaring temperatures led to an increase in tragedies in the water with 14 people sadly losing their life to drowning in a matter of days.

Here in the North East, 13-year-old Robert Hattersley was tragically killed in Ovingham, Northumberland, after getting into difficult in the River Tyne.

Now, emergency services across the region have come together to issue one united message – look out for each other and follow our advice.

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, Northumbria Police, the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) said they were expecting a busy summer.

Station Manager Jonny Ramanayake, of TWFRS’s Prevention and Education team, said the Service had performed 96 water based rescues since the beginning of the year – and that figure will increase with warm weather.

He said: “Tragic deaths across the country, including here in the North East in recent weeks have been a harrowing reminder of how dangerous open water can be.

“These are heart-breaking circumstances in which to provide water safety advice, but the tragedies of these last few weeks underline why it is so important.

“This World Drowning Prevention Day, the region’s responder agencies are coming together to make one, united plea – please be careful around water this summer.

“It will be hot at times, but we cannot stress enough the risks of cold-water shock, and the effect this has on even the most competent of swimmers.

“Please only consider entering water in controlled environments where there are lifeguards on duty, and do not go for a swim in rivers, lakes, or unsupervised bodies of water where there could be a number of hidden dangers.”

Sergeant Simon Falconer, of Northumbria Police’s Marine Unit, said: “It is hugely important that people recognise and understand the potential risks when going into the water.

“Sadly, we have seen all too often the devastating and irreversible consequences that this can have, so on World Drowning Prevention Day, we want to reiterate our message of vigilance and caution.

“Anybody who does see anyone in difficulty is asked to call 999 and ask for the Coastguard or the fire service, rather than enter the water themselves and risking further problems.

“If you see someone in danger, act fast – keep your eyes on the person and wait for emergency services to arrive. That will allow emergency services to get to the casualty as quickly and safely as possible.”

Head of Operations Central Division, Darren Green from North East Ambulance Service said: “Unfortunately, as the weather gets warmer we can receive more calls to patients who have found themselves in trouble or unwell in open bodies of water.

“These past few weeks have been no exception. This makes our call for more water safety awareness and vigilance even more important on World Drowning Day.

“Even when a body of water can appear calm and safe, it can sometimes be deceptive.  If you see someone who is struggling in the water, call 999 and ask for help.”

Colleagues at the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, who help save lives at sea, said the summer holidays are historically their busiest time of the year.

Neil Hancock, Area Lifesaving Manager at the charity, said:  “With 35 million people** estimated to visit UK coasts this summer, our highly-trained lifeguards and volunteer lifeboat crews will be extremely busy during the school summer holidays.

“To stay safe, the RNLI are reminding people to choose a lifeguarded beach where possible and swim between the red and yellow flags, which is the safest area as it is constantly monitored by our lifeguards.

“A simple skill we ask everyone to remember is ‘Float to Live’ if they find themselves in difficulty in the water. To do this, you lean back like a starfish, using your arms and legs to stay afloat. This will allow you to control your breathing, then call for help or swim to safety. The technique has been proven to save lives.

“We want people to enjoy the UK’s coastline but we urge you to please respect the dangers and remember, in a coastal emergency, dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard.”

This is the second World Drowning Prevention Day after the maiden awareness campaign was launched by the World Health Organisation (WHO) last year.

It is part of the #RespectTheWater campaign that has been developed by the National Water Safety Forum and being supported around the world.

For further information about water safety advice, and the #RespectTheWater campaign, visit https://www.who.int/campaigns/world-drowning-prevention-day/2022.

If you see anyone in distress then please immediately dial 999 and don’t put yourself in danger by entering the water yourself.