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.