In emergencies call 999

279 people rescued from water in last five years in West Yorkshire

Firefighters are reminding the public to be careful around water in West Yorkshire as part of Drowning Prevention and Water Safety Week (April 29th – May 5th).

The initiative is led nationally by the National Fire Chief’s Council (NFCC) with the theme ‘Be Water Aware.’

In the last five years firefighters have attended 279 water rescues across West Yorkshire. Sadly, 20 people died and a further 74 were injured. The Leeds district, which contains a number of canals and the River Aire, saw the highest number of rescues, with 114 incidents. As such a joint service initiative has resulted in a number of rescue throwlines installed along the river to allow members of the public to provide assistance before the arrival of emergency services

National figures released as part of the week of awareness also show that:

  • More than 80% of all accidental drownings are male.
  • Around 34% of accidental drownings happen in the Summer.
  • The highest percentage of drownings occur in the 20-29 year old age group.

Ronnie Goldwater, Station Manager at Bingley Fire Station, which is a specialist water rescue station, said: “With Summer months approaching and more good weather on the way, there’s a need to raise awareness of how to keep people safe around the water.

“Firefighters are specially trained in water rescue and attend a variety of different scenarios where people have got into trouble in the water. Some people may simply be running or walking alongside water and have slipped in, others may have become disorientated after a night out and alcohol does often play a part.

“However as the temperatures increase there are also people who go into water deliberately, perhaps to cool off on a hot day, who then find themselves in trouble. Children can also get into difficulty even in very shallow water, especially if there are under currents that can knock them off their feet.”

If you find someone in difficulty in the water there are certain steps to follow to try and help them.

Ronnie added: “The first thing to do is call 999, ask for fire service and ambulance. Explain to the operator where you are, and they will give you some life-saving advice over the phone. Never enter the water to try and save someone, or a pet, because you can quickly become another casualty yourself.

“Firefighters are best equipped to carry out a rescue however you can help by looking around for something, like a rope, branch or even a ball that you can throw to someone to help them stay afloat until our crews arrive. If you can speak to the person and keep them calm by reassuring them that help is on the way.”

What’s happening during Water Safety Week?

Bingley firefighters will be in Bingley Town Centre every day displaying the water rescue equipment so look out for them.

This weekend crews will be in Roberts Park in Saltaire on Saturday (4th May) and Ilkley Park on Sunday (May 5th) in the afternoons to run practical water safety sessions and give water safety advice to the public.

Our firefighters regularly train for water rescue scenarios in public places and if you see them, please feel free to go and ask questions about what they are doing and raise your awareness of staying safe near the water.

The NFCC is a member of the National Water Safety forum and is committed to the National Drowning Prevention Strategy which aims to cut water-related deaths by 50 per cent by 2026.

For more information on the campaign (including national statistics) visit https://www.nationalfirechiefs.org.uk/Water-aware-week-2019