Firefighters team up with RNLI to launch water safety campaign

Firefighters will now be spreading crucial water safety advice to residents in Wallasey as part of a new pilot scheme aimed at reducing the number of water related incidents in the area.

It comes as part of a partnership between Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service (MFRS) and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI). The six-month pilot will initially be restricted to the Wallasey area – where incidents involving water are particularly high – but could be rolled out further if deemed a success.

Firefighters and other staff from MFRS visit more than 60,000 homes each year to highlight fire safety. These Home Fire Safety Checks (HFSCs) are normally pre-arranged and made by appointment with the homeowner/occupant, but can sometimes be carried out as part of door-to-door or community reassurance campaigns.

As part of the pilot, firefighters will now spend an extra few minutes in residents’ homes in Wallasey, using this time to share important safety information around water safety in line with the RNLI’s ‘Respect the Water’ campaign.

The average temperature in British and Irish coastal waters is 12-15⁰C – enough to cause cold water shock. Fire crews will focus on the RNLI’s core safety message – Float to Live – aimed at equipping anyone who finds themselves unexpectedly entering cold water with the key survival technique.

The move comes following discussions with the Merseyside Water Safety Forum (MWSF), formed and chaired by MFRS in November 2018.

Ian Kay, Team Leader at MFRS’ Marine Rescue Unit, said: “The latest figures showing water linked fatalities make shocking reading and demonstrate just how serious the risks are for people who go near to or into the water.

“Nearly 50% of people who accidentally drown in the UK never intended to enter the water so it’s imperative that we ensure people are aware of the risks and know how to take action if they find themselves in difficulty. Our goal is to reduce the number of accidental drownings across Merseyside and we hope to do this by highlighting this issue and making sure simple safety messages reach those most at risk. Including water safety as part of HFSCs is an important step in reducing these needless deaths.”

Wallasey Fire Station has been chosen for the pilot scheme based upon risk and incident data specific to this area and the Wirral coastline in general. Wallasey Fire Station’s geographical boundary also houses key RNLI assets, with water and/or mud rescues in the are often involving crews from both services.

Station Manager John Kellaway added: “Firefighters from Wallasey aim to complete 170 HFSCs per month, with an annual target of just 2,000. This pilot scheme is a fantastic way for us to share water safety messages with those who would not ordinarily receive it and allows us to achieve our mission statement of creating safer, stronger communities.”

Peter Rooney, RNLI Area Lifesaving Manager for the Wirral, said: “The RNLI’s ambitious goal is to half the number of accidental coastal deaths by 2024 and we realise we can’t do this alone. We are working with communities and partners in a bid to prevent drowning tragedies and this partnership is a perfect example of how working together can make a real impact.

“We are so very grateful to MFRS for helping to spread our key safety messages and help ensure people know exactly what to do should they find themselves in the water. Our ‘Float’ message is such a simple technique, one that has already been proven to save lives. If people do find themselves in the water, they should fight their instinct thrash about, stay calm and float.

“We are delighted to be part of this exciting pilot on the Wirral and hope by working together we will reach more people than ever before.”

This is by no means the first partnership campaign between MFRS and the RNLI, with the two organisations already providing joint Waterside Community Responder training to members of the public. Individuals from dockside businesses at the Royal Albert Dock and representatives of the TravelSafe partnership are among those to have already received training. Participants receive full training as well as being issued with water safety equipment for use at their location free of charge.

To arrange a Home Fire Safety Check, call 0800 731 5958.

For more information on the Waterside Community Responder training, email

Make sure you follow these important safety tips near water:
• 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 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

If you’re in trouble in cold water:
• Fight your instinct to thrash around
• Lean back, extend your arms and legs
• If you need to, gently move your arms and legs to help you float
• Float until you can control your breathing
• Only then call for help or swim to safety

For those who find floating a little harder:
• Clothing can provide natural buoyancy for the first few minutes
• Stick to gentle movement to help you float
• Practice your floating technique in a pool

When the shock has passed, look for safety. Options are likely to include:
• Swimming to safety – parallel to the beach if you’re caught in a rip current
• Calling for help
• Finding something to hold onto to help keep afloat
• Thinking about ways to preserve body heat until help arrives