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Fears people using open waters are more at risk of drowning than ever

PUBLISHED: 06:30 12 June 2020 | UPDATED: 08:56 12 June 2020

Emergency services are involved in an awareness campaign over using open waters. Warning signs at Bawsey Pits Picture: Ian Burt

Emergency services are involved in an awareness campaign over using open waters. Warning signs at Bawsey Pits Picture: Ian Burt

Archant 2018

People flocking to the beaches and Broads this summer could be at greater risk of drowning with lifeguard and rescue services limited by the coroanvirus pandemic, emergency services have warned.

Stuart Ruff, Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service's chief fire officer. Pic: Norfolk County Council.Stuart Ruff, Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service's chief fire officer. Pic: Norfolk County Council.

As a public awareness campaigning is launched into the dangers of open waters, police and firefighters have urged people using them to be more vigilant than ever - warning that the pandemic has seen rescue operations become more stretched.

Launching today and running for a week, Drowning Prevention Week is a national campaign which is receiving the backing of Norfolk’s Drowning Prevention Forum, which is made up of representatives from across the emergency services and other community leaders such as the county council.

It is pioneered by the Royal Life Saving Society UK, which fears families flocking to beaches and open waters in lieu of being able to holiday abroad may find themselves at greater risk.

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Stuart Ruff, Norfolk’s chief fire officer, said: “It is so important to remind people to stay safe and take personal responsibility near water, especially at the present time as we ask the public to help reduce risk to ensure we remain available as emergency services.”

With Norfolk Fire and Rescue, which fronts the forum, having to adapt its work amid the pandemic, people have been urged to be wary of particularly high risk locations such as Bawsey Country Park, near King’s Lynn, where crews have been called upon for several water rescues over the years.

The campaign will see safety messages spread widely across social media platforms, while also seeing Broads Authority rangers patrolling high risk areas of the national park highlighting dangers to those using the Broads.

Margaret Dewsbury, Norfolk County Council’s cabinet member for communities, said: “Our fire and rescue service has specialist water rescue equipment and works closely with partner agencies to attend water-based emergencies across Norfolk.

“Most people are surprised to learn that you are more likely to die from drowning in the UK, than you are from being hit by a car or in a domestic fire.”

PC Paul Bassham of Norfolk Constabulary, added: “There are many unseen dangers [of open waters] such as a change in depth, strong current or riptides, sudden decreases in temperature, unseen objects and currents, which can cause even the strongest of swimmers to get into difficulty very quickly.”


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