Water Safety Week: Enjoy lockdown easing... but be water aware!

As the current Covid-19 restrictions ease, it is anticipated many people will head to coastal locations and inland water beauty spots...

Few people would think they might become a water incident statistic. But the fact is in the UK in 2019, more people died from accidental drowning than cyclists did on the road.

The National Fire Chiefs Council’s (NFCC) Be Water Aware campaign runs from 26th April to 2nd May. Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service (MFRS) is taking part and encouraging people not to be complacent when spending time in and around water. The aim is to encourage people to be safe by being aware of the risks.

Following simple advice will help reduce the 223 accidental drownings reported in 2019 and the many more injuries, which can be life-changing, following water-related incidents.

Top water safety advice includes:

  • Never swim alone in case you need help.
  • Don’t drink alcohol when undertaking water related activities; it impairs judgement and your ability to swim.
  • Avoid walking routes near water if you have been drinking alcohol.
  • Don’t dive or jump straight into open water, this can cause potentially fatal cold water shock even on the warmest day.
  • Actively supervise children in and around water - drowning can happen fast and silently.
  • If you find yourself unexpectedly in the water, don’t panic; extend your arms and legs out and float on your back until the effects of cold water shock pass.
  • Never enter the water to try to rescue someone; call 999 and ask for the Fire Service if inland and the Coastguard if you are at the coast.

Paul McGuiness, Watch Manager for Arson & Water Safety, said: “As lockdown eases and the weather warms up, more people are likely to take risks around water.

“In Merseyside, we have the river, the beach and canals, all of which involve dangers such as mud flats and strong tides. There are also inland water risks.

“We want people to have fun but it is vital they do so safely. Please ensure you follow the water safety tips above when you are out and about near water.”

Each year, MFRS carry out a number of rescues from mud flats in our region. In January 2021, MFRS used a rescue sled to help free two people from mud flats on Crosby beach and in February, MFRS joined a multi-agency team in the rescue of two individuals who were stuck in mud near a sailing club in Thurstaston.

If you are visiting a Merseyside beach, make sure you are aware of tide times and take a mobile phone. If you do become stuck in mud, try not to panic, spread your weight as much as possible and call 999.

NFCC’s Drowning Prevention Lead Dawn Whittaker said: “We want people to enjoy spending time in and around water safely and that’s why we are asking people to be water aware.

“By highlighting this issue and making sure simple safety messages reach them, we hope to reduce the number of these needless and preventable deaths.”