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Hot weather and cold water can be a deadly combination

27 June 2018

As the UK heatwave continues this week, Humberside Fire and Rescue Service is reminding the public that cooling off in rivers, lakes, docks or reservoirs can be fatal.

Hot weather and cold water can be a deadly combination

Drowning in the UK is one of the leading causes of accidental death. Each year more than 300 people drown after tripping, falling or just by underestimating the risks associated with being near water. Many more people are left with life changing injuries in water related incidents.

Humberside Fire and Rescue is raising awareness of the risks so people can enjoy the water safely and not end up as one of these shocking statistics.

Humberside's service area includes 70km of East Yorkshire coastline and around 130km of Humber Estuary banks which can catch out anglers or dog walkers in the dangerous and unpredictable mud and tides. The region also has tidal waterways such as the Derwent, Ouse, Trent and River Hull which has seen many incidents over recent years as people have entered the water along its banks anywhere from Stoneferry down to The Deep. Over half of all water rescues in Humberside since 2009 have occurred in Hull.

NFCC's Water Safety Lead, Chief Fire Officer Dawn Whittaker explained which groups are particularly at risk: 

"Most people would be shocked to hear that those people drowning just happen to be near water such as runners and walkers. They are unaware of the risks and are totally unprepared for the scenario of ending up in the water. By highlighting this issue and making sure simple safety messages reach them we hope to reduce the number of these needless deaths.

The fire service has successfully reduced the number of fire deaths by focusing on prevention work and now we must apply the same principle to tackling drowning. Response is not enough - we must prevent drownings."

HFRS Public Safety Group Manager Steve Duffield outlined some areas of concern within the Humberside area:

"Any open water can be deadly, especially at this time of year when the water temperature is so low. In this region however, the banks of the River Humber, The Barge area of Grimsby, Hull Marina and the muddy River Hull make up the majority of our call-outs. Cold water shock can kill within a few minutes, so I would urge the public to call 999 and to never enter the water themselves to try and save others - it often makes matters worse.

"Now that we are finally set for some warm weather, I would urge those drinking alcohol in our town centres, often at the water's edge, to be especially careful themselves and call for help if others get into difficulty." 

Safety advice

• If you are going for a walk or run near water, stick to proper pathways and stay clear of the water's edge
• Make sure conditions are safe, avoid walking or running near water in the dark, slippery conditions or in bad weather
• If you've had alcohol, don't enter the water, avoid walking alone and avoid routes near water
• Never enter the water to try and help a person or animal - always call 999 and use any water rescue equipment if it is available
• If you are spending time near water - whether at home or abroad - make sure you are familiar with local safety information

Notes:
Fatality statistics from the National Water Safety Forum's Water Incident Database (WAID)
The National Water Safety Forum (NWSF) is the UK body which represents UK organisations with an interest in water safety and is committed to reducing drowning fatalities. With a core of around 40 organisations and a network of a further 300, among many others it represents: Amateur Swimming Association; Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents; Royal Life Saving Society UK; Royal National Lifeboat Institution; Maritime and Coastguard Agency; Canal and River Trust; Chief Fire Officers Association; local authorities throughout the UK.
Dawn Whittaker, NFCC Water Safety Lead, sits on the NWSF as is a Trustee of the RLSS.