RNLI appeal for waterside volunteers to help save lives on Norfolk and Suffolk Broads waterways

Crew members from Teddington Lifeboat Station help raise river safety awareness at Kingston-on-Thame

Crew members from Teddington Lifeboat Station help raise river safety awareness at Kingston-on-Thames by training bar staff, riverside business people and the community in rescue techniques and using throw bags. Picture: RNLI - Credit: Archant

Staff at pubs, bars and shops on the Broads are being offered free training and equipment by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) to help prevent people drowning on the area's waterways.

The charity is running a pilot scheme which will supply potentially lifesaving throw bags to pubs at key locations, and train staff to use them when people get into distress in the water.

The Waterside Community Responder scheme comes as statistics show that 20 people drowned around the Broads in the last three years.

Ben Mitchell, community safety partner for the RNLI, said: 'This scheme is very straightforward – we're offering to provide free training in how to use these throw bags, to the people and businesses that are most likely to witness people getting into difficulty in the water.'

A throw bag is essentially a 20m floating line that when packed in its own bag is weighted enough to be thrown to a casualty, it can then be used to pull the casualty to safety by the person throwing the bag.

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Mr Mitchell, who will deliver the training along with fellow members of Happisburgh RNLI community safety team, added: 'Research shows that a significant proportion of drownings involve people visiting pubs and bars near water and then getting into distress. It could be someone taking a seemingly innocent swim and suffering cold water shock, or it could be through an accident where someone never intended to be in the water.

'Staff at these places will be our advocates in waterside environments, and are the ones most likely to be there at times where risk is most prevalent. The idea behind training staff or volunteers at pubs, bars and restaurants is they will be able to encourage good behaviour in that environment by giving the public knowledge and advice, and they will ultimately know what to do if someone did enter the water.'

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Broads Authority Chief Executive John Packman welcomed the initiative and said: 'We want everyone to enjoy the waterways within our national park safely.'

The initiative coincides with the RNLI's annual national drowning prevention campaign, Respect the Water.

More information can be found at https://rnli.org/pages/throw-bag-training

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