Local children will receive vital water safety advice this week, as leisure centres and schools across the UK join forces to help prevent another summer of drowning tragedies.
Abergavenny-based fire-fighters will also be staging a water awareness demonstration on the Castle Meadows next to Llanfoist Bridge on Sunday (June 25) from 11am.
It’s all part of Drowning Prevention Week, an annual campaign organised by the Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK).
Drowning is a leading cause of accidental death for children in the UK, with latest statistics showing that in the last five years 48 children aged nine and under drowned, and 147 young people aged 10 to 19 lost their life.
The summer months are a particularly high risk time of year. Last year, 85 people accidentally drowned in July and August alone.
Abergavenny’s fire and rescue service station manager, Steve Cooper said, “Shockingly, one person drowns every 20 hours in the UK. In fact water-related incidents are second only to road traffic collisions in the list of call outs for the fire service in Monmouthshire.
“Apart from children, the main risk groups are runners, walkers (including dog walkers) and anglers.
“By supporting the nationwide campaign we are doing our very best to give people vital skills that can save lives.
“We’ll be passing on general information about how to stay safe near water, the specialised training we receive in order to rescue people from water and the equipment we use such as dry suits, hose inflation equipment, throw lines and so on. We hope lots of people out enjoying the hot weather will come and watch.”
Severn Area Rescue Association (SARA) Training Manager David Brown based at Beachley added, “Every year we’re asked by the coastguard, fire and rescue service, DEFRA, police and other agencies to assist people in difficulty. None of these people expected to get into difficulty and none of them expected it to happen to them.
“The vast majority of cases were preventable with knowledge. Children especially don’t see potential dangers around water and so we fully support and encourage activities such as Drowning Prevention Week to allow all to enjoy the outdoors safely.”
Around 400 leisure centres across the UK, along with schools, community groups, and businesses have signed up to host targeted water safety activities as part of the campaign, meaning hundreds of thousands of children will be taught how to stay safe near water this summer.
Di Steer, RLSS UK’s Chief Executive, said, “We want as many children as possible to learn essential water safety skills, especially at this high-risk time of year.
“Accidental drowning is wholly preventable and by encouraging leisure centres to get involved, we effectively extend our work force and potentially save lives.”
•Members of Abergavenny fire service with their ‘Don’t Drink and Drown’ message.