Organisations join forces to promote Drowning Prevention Week

Emergency services, local authorities and the Environment Agency are joining forces to support Drowning Prevention Week.

The Royal Life Saving Society’s nationwide campaign is running until Saturday (June 26) with the aim of equipping people with the skills to enjoy water safely.

More than 400 people lose their lives in accidental drownings in the UK each year with many more suffering life-changing injuries.

The Berkshire and South Bucks area has suffered tragedies in recent years, including teenager Jordan Veira who died after getting into difficulty in the water in Bourne End on May 31.

This week also marked a year since two Syrian men died while swimming in a stretch of water near Odney Lane in Cookham on June 23, 2020.

A list of top tips has been released to enjoy the water safely.

James Blake, water rescue instructor and watch based station manager at RBFRS, said: “There is an average of 400 tragic accidental drownings each year in the UK. However, drowning is preventable and can be reduced by being aware of the risks.

“We would encourage our residents to take a look at our water safety advice so that they and their loved ones are able to enjoy the water safely, both at our inland water spots as well as at the coast.

“If you do wish to take part in open water swimming, we advise doing so with an organised group and by sticking to designated swimming areas where there are lifeguards on duty.”

Inspector Guy Summers, lead for the Thames Valley Police and Hampshire Constabulary specialist search and maritime unit, added: “When the weather turns warm, open water looks inviting but the shock from the cold water and the risks posed by hidden currents and items under water are substantial, even for strong swimmers.

“This year, cold water shock is a particular threat due to the cold spring we’ve had.

“We often have to deal with the tragic aftermath when things go wrong in the water and I cannot stress enough the importance of familiarising yourself, family and friends with the water safety code this Drowning Prevention Week.”

Safety advice includes:

  • Avoid bridge and ledge jumping at all times, often referred to as ‘tombstoning’, as this can cause potentially fatal cold water shock, even on the warmest day.
  • Do not be tempted to swim in open water such as rivers, lakes, canals or quarries. You have no idea what is beneath the surface and unseen currents or reeds could pull you under.
  • If you do wish to take part in open water swimming, know the difference between designated and non-designated bathing waters and follow the Swim Healthy guidance from Public Health England and Environment Agency and do so as part of a group or an organised event. Avoid swimming alone.
  • At the beach, choose a lifeguarded beach and swim between the red and yellow flags.
  • If you find yourself in trouble in the water, float to live. Do not panic, float on your back until the effects of cold water shock pass. When the cold water shock has passed, you can then swim to the edge or call for help.
  • If someone else falls into the water, call 999 straight away and ask to speak to the Fire and Rescue Service if inland and the Coastguard if at the Coast.

The Advertiser and Express will be campaigning throughout the summer to raise awareness about water safety.

We will be working with organisations such as Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service to promote better understanding of the dangers of swimming in our rivers and open water.

As well as regular safety advice, we are also hoping to work with schools, councils and other stakeholders to spread the message on how to stay safe this summer and work towards improvements along the river.

Watch out for a series of articles in the coming weeks and months.

To get involved in the campaign, please email 

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