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Drowning Prevention and Water Safety Week

13th April 2015

North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service is joining with fire and rescue services across the UK in supporting the Chief Fire Officers Association’s Drowning Prevention and Water Safety Week 2015, taking place from 13-19 April.

The campaign is focusing on raising awareness of the issue of Cold Water Shock, which causes a number of fatalities every year as young people – even those who are strong swimmers – aren’t aware of the effect that it can have on their ability to swim in open water. Even on a warm day, the temperature of the water in a reservoir, quarry or lake can remain very cold and the shock of cold water creates a physical response that can make it more difficult to swim, and can even cause death.

CFOA’s Water Safety Lead, Dawn Whittaker, warned: “While reservoirs, lakes, rivers and other inland water may look safe and inviting, particularly on a warm day, there are hidden dangers below the surface that could make you ill, hurt you, and – at worst – could kill you.

Cold Water Shock is a physical response that can not only affect your breathing, but will reduce your muscle ability and can even lead to a heart attack. Moving water, such as rivers, may look calm but may have strong currents below the surface which can carry even strong swimmers into danger. And, of course, from out of the water, or above, you may not be able to see dangerous obstructions such as large rocks or dead branches that can cause you injury.

You may also want to consider the fact that open water is untreated, and may be polluted with bacteria and algae that can give you stomach upsets, or even with organisms that can cause a number of nasty illnesses including Weil’s Disease, Trachoma and Whipworm.”

The water safety messages that the fire and rescue service will be delivering will, it is hoped, also raise awareness of and support for the great campaigns that the RLSS, RNLI and ASA will be running later in 2015 – the RLSS’ Drowning Prevention Week from 20-28 June and the RNLI’s Respect the Water campaign in July and the joint RNLI/ASA Swim Safe swimming lessons and beach safety advice ‘roadshow’ in July and August.



1. 2013 fatality statistics from the National Water Safety Forum’s Water Incident Database (WAID).

2. The key objective of the week will be to raise awareness of the issue, thus hopefully reducing preventable water fatalities in young adults aged 16-30, as this is the age group that saw the highest number of water-related deaths in 2013.

3. CFOA’s Water Safety Workgroup, with the RLSS, has supported the establishment of an All Party Parliamentary Working Group on Drowning Prevention, which has over 20 MPs.

4. CFOA is also taking part in developing a National Drowning Prevention Strategy, underpinned by data from the National Water Safety Forum’s Water Incident Database (WAID), which is supported by RoSPA.

5. CFOA's Water Safety Lead also sits on the National Water Safety Forum.

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