Fire service steps up as part of national water safety week

Local firefighters will be visiting lakes and reservoirs across the county next week, commencing Monday 17 June, as South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue turns its attention to water safety and drowning prevention.

The work comes as the service gives its backing to a national Drowning Prevention Week – which is being spearheaded by The Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK).

Collectively SYFR, and RLSS UK, want to try and reduce the 700 drownings that occur across the UK and Ireland each year.

During the course of the week crews will be visiting water sites that they have previously attended, and that have been identified by the public through an online campaign.

Whilst there they will be identifying any potential risks and outlining what preventative measures could be put in place at each location.

Station Manager Tom Hirst, who has been organising the service’s activity, is hoping that the work being done will help make South Yorkshire’s water sites safer for local people.

“Water rescues are one of the many incident types we attend and, sadly, we’ve had a number of calls in recent years where people have drown in open bodies of water,” he said.

“Even in hot weather, when people start to get attracted to lakes and reservoirs, water can be freezing cold and, as such, extremely dangerous.

“Our ambition is to try and stop drownings altogether but, of course, that will require a strong collective effort. That work starts this week.

“We’ve got a long list of sites, right across the county, that we’ll be visiting – and risk assessing. We can then identify places that might benefit from things such as security fencing, floatation equipment and warning signage.”

As well as being supported by local crews, the service’s community safety teams will be visiting local schools and youth groups to explain the dangers of playing in, or near, water.

“Our advice for the public, especially with summer coming, is to just be extra careful around open water. Unless you’re part of an authorised open water swimming group, keep out of it.

“Even if it looks nice and appealing, you have no idea how cold it is, what lies beneath the water or indeed what water borne bacteria and diseases might be in the water itself.”

According to officers, the dangers of unauthorised swimming in open water include it being much deeper and colder than people might think, the presence of diseases and bacteria in the water and the stuff – such as trollies, weeds and hidden currents – that might lie beneath.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution has recently launched its new ‘Float To Live’ campaign, which encourages anyone who gets caught in open water to fight the urge to swim and focus on floating until help arrives.

Off duty firefighter given top bravery honour

Off duty firefighter receives top bravery honour A South Yorkshire firefighter has been honoured with the service’s highest bravery award.

Crew Manager Paul Holbrook was off duty when there there was a road traffic collision on the M18 North motorway involving three vehicles.

The collision in September last year saw a driver thrown from one of the cars and left his passenger trapped in the vehicle – which was overturned. Paul was travelling with his family that day on the same stretch of motorway, and was caught in the traffic jam caused by the collision.

Upon seeing the incident ahead Paul left his vehicle, with traffic stood still, and ran to the scene. Once there, he identified a substantial petrol leak and immediately took charge of the incident.

He assessed the casualty and removed her from a difficult position in the overturned car before moving her to a place of safety. He then stayed with her on the hard shoulder and continued to provide casualty care. When crews arrived he was able to provide a full handover and continued to help all three blue light services until the casualties were taken by the ambulance service.

Presenting Paul with a Chief Fire Officer’s Commendation, CFO James Courtney said: “It is quite clear that in doing what he did Crew Manager Holbrook displayed bravery and complete selflessness. He went forward to help when he had the option not to – displaying the true values of the fire and rescue service.

“The on-duty Watch Manager, who took over the scene from Paul, has since praised his quick thinking and his actions – which stopped the incident from escalating and, most importantly, potentially saved this lady’s life.”

Paul was presented with a certificate in front of family, friends, colleagues and Fire Authority members at South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue’s Central fire station in Sheffield.