Drowning Prevention and Water Safety Week 2023

As the weather begins to improve Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service is joining other fire services across the UK and asking people to stay safe when spending time in and around water.

The call comes as part of the National Fire Chiefs Council’s (NFCC) ‘Be Water Aware’ campaign which runs from 24th - 30th April 2023.

The campaign is warning people of the risk of accidentally drowning when in or around water. There were 277 deaths in the UK from accidental drowning in 2021 in inland and coastal locations. 40% of people who lost their lives had no intention of entering the water*, with slips, trips and falls being the main cause of them entering the water. Many others underestimate the risk of jumping into water where unseen hazards and cold water can endanger even the strongest swimmers.

Even on a warm day the temperature in open water can remain very cold, causing cold water shock, a physical reaction which can make it difficult to control breathing, cause panic and make it difficult to swim.

Richard Felton, Head of Community Safety for Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service said:

“As we enter Be Water Aware campaign week, I would like to bring focus on the issue of accidents drownings. It is shocking to hear that there were 277 accidental drownings in the UK in 2021 and 40% of those who drowned had no intention of entering the water. If you see someone struggling in the water, remember this life saving advice, call 999, tell them to float on their back and throw something to them to float. #BeWaterAware #RespectWater”

If you do find yourself in difficulty in the water, people are urged not to panic and ‘Float To Live’. This means leaning back in the water and spreading your arms and legs to stay afloat, control your breathing, when the effects of cold-water shock have passed call out for help or swim to safety.

If someone is in trouble in water, call 999. At the coast ask for the coastguard. If you are inland, ask for the fire service. Its important people call for help rather than entering the water to attempt a rescue as this can often result in emergency services needing to find and rescue more people from the water.

Dawn Whittaker, NFCC’s lead for drowning prevention said:

“Most people would be shocked to hear the number of lives lost simply because people were spending time in and around water. These deaths are preventable, so we ask everyone to be water aware.

 “NFCC works closely with fire services and partners to encourage people to be safe around water and to highlight the risk of accidental drowning. As the weather improves fire services across the country, along with our colleagues in HM Coastguard and RNLI, can be faced with huge numbers of calls to help people in trouble in water. By raising awareness now, we hope to keep people safe and reduce the number of injuries and fatalities in water as summer approaches.”

For more safety messages, information, advice, or guidance during Water Safety week please check out our Social Media channels and visit our website: Water Safety - Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service (mawwfire.gov.uk)

*WAID 2021 Annual fatal incident report