The fire service has revealed it has attended dozens of water rescues in the last five years, as it uses a national campaign week to remind the public of the dangers of swimming in open water.
South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue is supporting Drowning Prevention and Water Safety Week (25 April to 1 May) by asking people to avoid open water- like rivers and lakes- because they may not always be aware of the danger they pose.
River flows can be unpredictable and water is often deeper, colder and faster than expected. People should enjoy water safely in swimming pools or safer specialist facilities instead, officers warn.
South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue have attended 85 water rescue incidents over the last five years, resulting in five people dying.
Firefighters will be visiting water beauty spots during the week to offer safety advice to local people. Safety officers will be at Rother Valley Country Park in Sheffield on Wednesday (27 April) and at Thrybergh Country Park in Rotherham on Friday (29 April), both between 10am and 3pm.
Head of Prevention & Protection Steve Helps said; “We regularly receive 999 calls in the summer about people getting into difficulty in water, so it’s only a matter of time before someone’s safety is really put at risk unless people listen to our advice.
“It can be tempting to cool off in the summer months, but stick to a swimming pool. Hundreds of people drown each year in the UK and places like rivers, lakes or flooded quarries are completely unsuitable for swimming as they hide a number of hidden dangers.”
Over 400 people die in the water every year in the UK, and firefighters are urging people to follow some basic rules to stay safe.
The dangers of open water are:
• The water can be much deeper than you expect
• Rivers, lakes, canals and reservoirs are much colder than you think
• Open water can carry water borne diseases, pollutants and bacteria
• Cold water dramatically affects your ability to swim
• There may be hidden currents, which can pull you under the water
• You don’t know what lies beneath, like pieces of rubbish or reeds which can trap or injure you