It’s surprising to hear that drowning is one of the UK's leading accidental causes of death, resulting in more than 300 fatalities after tripping, falling or simply through underestimation of risks involved with being near water.
Thankfully, measures have been put in place to improve safety and raise awareness, with National Drowning Prevention and Water Safety Week being introduced because of shockingly high figures that occur every year. Scarily, the most recent statistics from 2016 indicate that almost a half of all drowning deaths in the UK occurred purely accidentally - in situations where a person has not intended to enter the water.
As this week is National Drowning Prevention and Water Safety Week, it’s important to acknowledge the importance of water safety and the hard and endless work by all involved in promoting water safety. National Drowning Prevention and Water Safety Week aims to educate people to help reduce drowning deaths by focusing on key groups and putting an emphasis on the leading causes of water deaths, and how these preventable situations can be stopped.
All too often we hear news stories on how a person has unfortunately come into difficulty while being near water. News stories that are backed up by awakening figures showing a year-on-year rise in the total of drowning deaths being accidental or other.
633 drowning deaths were reported in 2014, 644 in 2015 and a total of 648 for 2016. The 2016 figures show the highest accidental cause of drowning is a result of a person going running or walking near a body of water and unfortunately coming into difficulty as a result.
Preventative measures have been put in place to reduce the amount of fire deaths that occur every year. It's hoped that by raising the same awareness for drowning prevention and water safety, preventative measures to reduce the amount of deaths will follow suit. As instances where fire is involved are now on the decline, Fire and Rescue Services as well as other rescue services, now find themselves in an increasing number of situations that require the rescue of groups or individuals from water.
Top tips - should you find yourself or anyone else accidentally in water:-
- Fight the instinct to panic or swim – RNLI advice states that in this situation we should not trust our instincts. You should fight against any urge that you have to panic and swim hard, fighting against the water.
- Float – Advice states that instead of panicking and trying to swim, that it’s best to simply float or gently tread water. This way it’s easier to control your breathing meaning that you can stay calm.
- Get as much of your body as possible out of the water – Research shows you have around 10 minutes before muscle weakness sets in. If there's a floating object, get as much of your body as you can on top of it.
- Keep your clothes on, coat and all – If you have to tread water, or have no other choice than to swim, lose your shoes.
- Find a long stick – Or something that will reach the person without you having to enter the water. If you have rope, tie a loop and tell the person to loop it under their arms.
- Don’t just jump in – Unless you’re trained, this is almost always a bad idea and can result in you too finding yourself in difficulty.
Taking all of this into consideration, it’s alerting to realise the important role that water safety plays in day to day life. The fact that numbers of accidental and other forms of drowning are increasing year-on-year emphasises the point that we must stand up and pay attention to the concept of being water safe. There are many ways to find more information on drowning prevention and being water safe. One place to start is by visiting gov.uk.