East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service is reminding people to be water-aware as the summer approaches.
It is joining with fire and rescue services across the UK in supporting the Chief Fire Officers Association’s Drowning Prevention and Water Safety Week (25 April -1 May 2016).
Eastbourne, with its coast and Sovereign Harbour, has a vast amount of water, easily accessible.
While many people set out to enjoy being on the water, this year’s campaign raises awareness of the everyday dangers of being near it.
Figures from the National Water Safety Forum show that 44 per cent of people who drowned in 2014 had no intention of entering the water. Trips, falls or underestimating the risks with being near water meant that 302 people lost their lives.
CFOA’s Water Safety Lead Dawn Whittaker said “Most people would be shocked to hear that those people drowning just happen to be near water such as runners, walkers and anglers. They are unaware of the risks and are totally unprepared for the scenario of ending up in the water.”
What to do if someone falls into deep water
The first thing to do is call for help – straightaway. Call 999.
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 tools enabled this can help. If not, look around for any landmarks or signs – for example bridges may 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, ever enter the water to try to 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.
If there is no lifesaving equipment look at what else you can use. There may be something that can help them stay afloat – even an item such as a ball can help.
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.