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Positive steps towards a future without drowning

28/08/2019
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The Water Incident Database (WAID) annual drowning statistics show that in 2018, the UK has had the lowest number of total drownings for 10 years, but sadly we still saw 585 drowning fatalities.

Chairman of National Water Safety Forum, George Rawlinson, said: “We are past the three-year mark of the National Drowning Prevention Strategy and it is clear that members of the National Water Safety Forum and many other organisations are making good progress throughout the country to keep people informed of the risks, and working together to prevent drowning.

The overall reduction over the three years is a good indicator that our efforts are paying off and fewer people and families are affected by drowning, but there remains much to be done in order to meet the collective ambition of a future without drowning.”

Locally, East Sussex sadly had historically one of the highest accidental drowning figures in UK.

  • 4th highest figure in 2015 with 10 drownings.
  • 3rd highest figure in 2016 with 16 drownings. (7 of which were at Camber Sands)
  • 3rd highest figure in 2017 with 9 drownings.

It was those statistics that led to East Sussex Fire and Rescue developing a Drowning Prevention action plan. Through this plan, East Sussex Fire & Rescue have been involved in a number of prevention initiatives to raise awareness of the dangers of open water.  

Vital prevention work

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Our Water Safety Coordinator, Susan Taylor said: “Providing water safety education is paramount to our communities.

Thanks to our dedicated teams and volunteers, a full range of water safety activities are promoted to audiences at Station open days, during school visits by our Education team and at public events such as Eastbourne 999 (20,000 visitors) and Bewl Water Savvy Fun Day, (which had over 5,000 visitors). 

Our Safety in Action programme also provides water safety education and practical rescue techniques to a younger age group with over 6,000 10-11-year-olds attending each year. 

Our Water Safety Champions have also been busy delivering an engaging and re-invigorated Water Savvy Water Safe (WS2) presentation to 14-16-year-olds at secondary schools.  Over the first 4 shows, our Water Safety Champions engaged with over a thousand young people. Subjects including Tombstoning, Cold Water Shock and the RNLI campaign- FLOAT to Live all feature heavily in the show, as well as lifesaving rescue techniques and what to do if you fall into water.

We have a presence at University Fresher’s Fairs promoting the importance of not entering water after a night out drinking, not letting friends walk home alone by water if they are intoxicated and supporting the RLSS ‘Don’t Drink and Drown’ campaign.

Whilst this has been a multi-agency approach, there is no doubt that the vital prevention work we are doing at East Sussex Fire and Rescue is making a positive impact here in our local community.

This is evident as last year, we had only 3 fatal drownings in East Sussex, the lowest number of accidental drownings in 4 years and we are now supporting other Fire and Rescue Services with their prevention work.”

Exciting opportunities

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The hard work will continue as East Sussex Fire and Rescue support national water safety campaigns and work collaboratively with NFCC Water Safety Practitioners nationwide and other agencies such as the RNLI, RLSS, Coastguard and Sussex Police.

East Sussex Fire and Rescue aims to increase the number of young people they engage within secondary schools with the WS2 presentations.  

For the first time, East Sussex Fire and Rescue has some exciting opportunities to work with local colleges to deliver four water safety campaigns throughout the year.

During 2019, East Sussex Fire and Rescue will also be engaging with health partners to consider what action they may be able to assist within tackling suicide in drowning – as unfortunately, East Sussex has the highest figure in the UK.

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