East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service is supporting CFOA Drowning Prevention and Water Safety Week and raising awareness of the dangers of everyday activities, perceived to be low risk – such as angling. In 2015, almost double the amount of people drowned as a result of fishing, compared to sailing.
Fishing fatalities are a particular problem in Coastal areas. Rock fishing can be very risky due to slippery rocks and freak waves which may take people by surprise.
Whether you are fishing inland or on the coast, a lifejacket vastly improves your chances of survival if you should fall in. Most anglers would survive a fall into water if they wore a lifejacket. It keeps you afloat when cold water shock renders the strongest of swimmers unable to swim.
What to do if someone falls into deep water
The first thing to do is call for help - straightaway. Call 999, if you are near the coast ask for the coastguard, if you are inland, ask for fire service and ambulance. The emergency services will need to know where you are. Accurate information can save precious minutes.
If you have a smart phone and have location services or map tool enabled, this can help. If not look around for any landmarks or signs – for example bridges will often have numbers on them which can identify their location.
Don’t hang up – stay on the line but try and continue to help the person if appropriate. When you have made this call shout for help from anyone who might be close by. Human nature says you are likely to want to attempt to help while rescue services are on their way. Never enter the water to try and save someone. This usually ends up adding to the problem. If you go into the water you are likely to suffer from cold water shock which will leave you unable to help even if you are a strong swimmer.
Can the person help themselves? Shout to them ‘Swim to me’. The water can be disorientating. This can give them a focus. Keep any instructions short clear and loud. Don’t shout instructions using different words each time.
Look around for any lifesaving equipment. Depending on where you are there might be lifebelts or throw bags – use them. If they are attached to a rope make sure you have secured or are holding the end of the rope so you can pull them in. Be mindful that if the water is cold the person may struggle to grasp an object or hold on when being pulled in.
If you manage to get the person out of the water they will always need medical attention.
Even if they seem fine drowning can occur at a later stage if water has already entered the lungs. It can cause death up to 48 hours after the near drowning incident. If the person is unconscious but breathing put them in the recovery position with their head lower than their body. If they are conscious try and keep them warm. If you can remove wet clothes and give them something dry to put on as they are at risk of hypothermia.