Police issue water-safety message

News from Northumbria Police
News from Northumbria Police

With the summer holidays around the corner, police are reminding people to stay safe around water.

Every year, Northumbria Police receives an increased amount of calls about incidents around the water as a result of the onset of warm weather.

Police are warning these types of incidents can prove fatal and want to ensure members of the public don’t put their lives at risk unnecessarily.

People are reminded open water can be deceptive, particularly in rivers. Even if the water looks calm, powerful currents and tides can pose significant risks, however strong a swimmer you are.

Superintendent Scott Hall, from the Force Resilience Unit, said: “With the summer holidays upon us we would like to remind people to stay safe around the water and enjoy the hot weather without incident.

“Open water can often prove treacherous and there is no real way of knowing the depth of the water or the strength of the current.

“The water can be particularly cold, even on hot days, and this can have dramatic effects on the body that could lead to drowning.

“People under the influence of alcohol will also have their judgement and physical abilities impaired and they could easily get into difficulties resulting in tragic consequences.

“The public should be cautious in unfamiliar stretches of water and encourage their friends to do the same. I’d also ask parents to remind their children of the dangers of open water.”

Assistant Chief Fire Officer Chris Lowther, from Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, said: “While reservoirs, lakes, rivers and other inland water may look safe and inviting, particularly on a warm day, there are hidden dangers below the surface that could hurt you, and - at worst - could kill you.

“Also, open water is untreated and may be polluted with bacteria and algae that can give you stomach upsets, or even with organisms that can cause a number of nasty illnesses.”

Anyone who sees anyone in trouble in the water should dial 999 immediately and police offer the following advice:

- TALK to the casualty. They may be able to help themselves out of the situation by standing and walking out of the water. Talking to them can also calm the situation through reassurance.

- THROW a line or rope to the casualty and/or a lifebelt or other floating object to assist buoyancy.

- REACH for the casualty using a pole, branch or similar object if they are closer to land.

- ROW if a boat or vessel of some description is available then use it try and get closer to the casualty, if it is safe to do so, rather than entering the water yourselves. If possible tether the vessel to the shore so those on dry land can assist you with the recovery of the casualty.

Northumbria Police are also supporting the RNLI’s Respect the Water campaign which is aimed at increasing awareness of the dangers posed by our coastline.

Statistics released by the charity show that 31 people lost their lives off the North East coast last year and a further 89 had to be rescued by RNLI volunteers.

The campaign is warning against the dangers of people scrambling across slippy rocks and wading through water with strong undercurrents.

Further initiatives targeting specific groups will also include a scheme urging divers over 50 to get a health check before their next dive and a reminder to kayakers to always have a means to call for help.