Local bars receive lifesaving training ahead of busy festive period

Staff from The River Bar and The Havelock pub in Fatfield, Washington during a throw-bag safety session with TWFRS and the RNLI.

Brave bar staff have received life-saving training on how to rescue people from the water ahead of one of their busiest times of the year.

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS) teamed up with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) as part of the recent annual Don’t Drink and Drown campaign.

Since the organisations launched their Waterside Responder Scheme in 2019, hundreds of staff across the region have received crucial throwline training.

The training has already seen six lives saved when staff at bars near to stretches of water have leapt into action to save people in distress in the water.

And ahead of the busy festive period, TWFRS and the RNLI have visited more bars to deliver the training to staff during Christmas party season.

They visited the River Bar and The Havelock pub in Fatfield to deliver the training, as did staff at Newcastle venues the Tyne Bar and the Pitcher and Piano.

Also present at the training was TWFRS Crew Manager Dave Irwin, whose son Ross drowned in a stretch of the River Wear in 2016.

It was particularly poignant for Dave as his 22-year-old son lost his life opposite the River Bar, after a Christmas night out ended in tragedy.

Father and Son, Dave and Ross Irwin

“We are coming up to the sixth anniversary of Ross’s death and not a day goes by when I don’t think to myself….what if?” Said Dave.

He added: “What if Ross hadn’t of slipped down the riverbank? What if he had gone straight in to a taxi? What if he’d stayed with his friends?

“These are all questions that won’t bring back my son but their sentiment coupled with the water safety advice being provided by TWFRS and the RNLI could help to save someone’s child who might find themselves in a similar situation.

“I’m fully supportive of the Don’t Drink and Drown campaign as if it helps to save just one person’s life then it means that Ross’s death wouldn’t have been in vain. Please be sensible and stay safe this Christmas and New Year.”

Since the introduction of the throwline safety equipment over three-years ago in locations across Tyne and Wear, six people’s lives have been saved.

On average each year 80 people lose their lives in the UK through substance-related drowning.

TWFRS regularly works with the RNLI to deliver the Waterside Responder Scheme, which provides essential water safety and throwline training to groups and businesses, free of charge.

This set of training was delivered recently in the area during the Don’t Drink and Drown campaign led by the Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS).

TWFRS Firefighter Tommy Richardson showing the bar staff how to use the throw-bag lifesaving equipment.

Josh White, Assistant Manager of The River Bar, which has over forty staff working at the busy venue, said:

“With us being right beside the river anything can happen in a split second.  Everyone who has had a few drinks has the capability of making a misjudgement and do something reckless.

“We quite often see people trying to hop over the fencing to do things like make a telephone call or even go to the toilet. It’s crazy. If we can do anything to prevent an accident from happening then that would be potentially lifesaving.

“If we have the throw-bag training then our staff will know as soon as they see somebody approaching the riverbank or in distress to grab the bag from the cupboard in preparation.

“As those couple of minutes pre-empting the situation could ideally save someone’s life ahead of the arrival of the fire and rescue service.

“We sadly saw everything in the newspaper about Ross as he visited the bar the night he tragically died.  Back then if the staff would’ve had the water safety training and knew about the throw-bags maybe things could have been much different…we’ll never know?

“At the end of the day you are helping to save someone’s life so you can never be too careful.  It’s also peace of mind for our customers who are safe in the knowledge that our staff have received this essential training.”

Taryn-Rose Cullen of the RNLI, said: “The idea behind training staff or volunteers at pubs bars and restaurants is that they will be able to encourage good behaviours in that environment by giving the public knowledge and advice, and they will ultimately know what to do if someone did enter the water.

“We encourage any waterside venue or business to sign up to this free training on our website.”

The principles of the Waterside Responder Scheme are acknowledged and supported by Sunderland City Council, as the local authority encourages more pubs, clubs and restaurants to take up the free training.

If your organisation would like to sign up for one of the free Waterside Responder Scheme training programmes then please use the contact form provided on the following RNLI link.

Please stay safe this Christmas and New Year.