Stay safe this Christmas – Don’t Drink and Drown

The Fire Service has joined forces with leading national and regional organisations to urge people to stay safe during this Christmas and New Year’s festivities especially when celebrating at venues located near to local waterways.

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Services (TWFRS) has coupled up with the Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS) to back its annual “Don’t Drink and Drown” campaign, which this year has a theme of #BeAMate.

Don’t Drink and Drown runs nationally from 11-17 December, and a special partnership event will be staged on Newcastle Quayside on the final day of the campaign (Sunday 17th December from 10am) – information has been provided below.

It reinforces an important message of looking after your friends and colleagues during the night’s merriment as part of the traditional office party or mates’ night out.

If they are a bit worse for wear, why not ensure they get in to a taxi and enjoy a safe journey home.  Don’t just leave them to fend for themselves as that decision could prove fatal the following morning in the cold light of day.

TWFRS and the RLSS are being proudly supported by Newcastle City Council and Tyneside and Northumberland Mind.

This campaign not only highlights the importance of deterring somebody from physically entering the water but also looks at the mental health of some individuals, at a time of year when everyone’s emotions are heavily influenced by the high level of expectation placed on to their shoulders.

Today the RLSS has sadly revealed that on average 73 people lose their lives each year through substance-related drowning. This is more than a quarter (29%) of UK annual accidental drowning fatalities.  Source – WAID (2018-2022).

Group Manager Steve Thomas, Head of TWFRS’s Prevention and Education department, said:

“Christmas is a time for having fun and celebrating with family and friends.  But the harsh reality is sometimes there are unexpected accidents that occur that turn these joyous occasions in to heart-breaking events.

“Our fire control teams and firefighters have first-hand experience in receiving the harrowing emergency service calls and handling the lifesaving incidents but in some cases these have a tragic ending.

“A great deal of these waterside incidents could be avoided by somebody making a simple decision.  Please don’t walk home along riversides or waterways, as during this time of year they can become slippery and hazardous, and people can easily lose their footing and end up in the water.

“We want people to have a great time but also to make it safely home.  Please take extra care, and as the campaign states be a mate this Christmas.”

The location for the Don’t Drink and Drown event has been chosen as people walking along the Newcastle Quayside can be shown the numbered throwline water safety boards which can vitally help to save someone’s live.

The fourteen life-saving throw-bags and water safety information boards were installed last year by Newcastle City Council along the busy Quayside area, which saw an investment by the local authority of £10,500.

If someone is in danger in the water, a passing member of the public could ring 999, ask for the fire and rescue service and in turn be given a code to access the equipment.

At the time, the installation project received guidance and advice from TWFRS and the RLSS to ensure the locations for the boards were in the appropriate areas for best use.

This also complements and reinforces the great work being delivered by the Service and the RNLI as part of the Waterside Responder Scheme, which to date has helped to save the lives of nine people since its inception over six-years ago.

The Waterside Responder Scheme has seen hundreds of staff at waterside businesses receiving free water rescue equipment and training across 50 sessions since the start of the scheme.

Joe Welsh, Royal Life Saving Society UK, said: “At this time of year people have a tendency to over indulge when it comes to their in-take of alcohol, which can in some cases lead to devastating and fatal misjudgements especially around waterside locations.

“Our Don’t Drink and Drown campaign this year reminds people to be a mate, as when you’re out enjoying yourselves please keep an eye on your friends and make sure they don’t do anything out-of-character that they might not ordinarily do, as it could be putting themselves in to unnecessary and avoidable danger.

“Getting them safely in to a taxi or on to the bus at the end of the night could be the best Christmas present ever for them and their family.”

Cllr Paula Maines, Cabinet member for a Resilient City at Newcastle City Council, said: “Newcastle is an attractive and vibrant city and I am sure many people are looking forward to enjoying the thriving nightlife with family and friends over the festive period.

“Together with partners, we are asking people to please avoid walking or taking unnecessary risks close to water when you are on your way home from a night out.

“We want everyone to have a great time this Christmas so if you do go out celebrating then please take care of each other and make sure everyone gets home safe.”

Alex Wilson, CEO for Tyneside and Northumberland Mind, said: “As a local mental health charity, we are emphasising the concerning trend of using alcohol as a coping mechanism for depression, stress, and social anxiety.

“Particularly during this time of year when many individuals might be facing heightened struggles or increased alcohol consumption, we urge caution and awareness.

“With the upcoming festive season, it’s anticipated that alcohol intake will rise, but it’s crucial to recognise its detrimental impact on your mental wellbeing. While a drink may offer temporary relaxation, excessive consumption can significantly contribute to long-term feelings of depression and anxiety. The unfortunate history of alcohol-related drownings in our region reinforces the importance of this campaign, and we wholeheartedly endorse it.”

Don’t Drink and Drown event:  On Sunday 17th December between 10am and 3pm there will be a joint agency event being staged on the Newcastle Quayside close to the Millennium Bridge.

There will be representatives from TWFRS, RLSS, Tyneside and Northumberland Mind and Newcastle City Council; who will be on-hand to give out essential advice about staying safe this festive season.

TWFRS will also be bringing along one of its outreach support vehicles and a crewed fire appliance for young people (and their parents) to look around.

There might even be some free handouts including wristbands, t-shirts and beer mats.

Please come along and say hello.