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Yorkshire Water and Fire Services back Be Water Aware campaign

Yorkshire Water and Fire and Rescue Services around Yorkshire have backed the National Fire Chiefs Council’s (NFCC) Be Water Aware campaign after more than 120 reported incidents of swimming in Yorkshire Water’s reservoirs since July 2020. 

According to the NFCC, 223 people accidentally drowned in the UK in 2019, with 44% of those deaths occurring in inland water.

Gaynor Craigie, head of land and property at Yorkshire Water, said: “During lockdown we have seen a worrying increase in the number of reported incidents of people getting into our reservoirs to swim recreationally or simply to have a dip and cool off.

“We know the importance of exercise and visiting the countryside as a boost to mental health, particularly over recent months, but safety must remain paramount. Entering a reservoir is dangerous. Low water temperatures can cause cold water shock that may lead to hyperventilation, increased blood pressure, breathing difficulties and ultimately death. Underwater machinery and the currents associated with their operation are also a potential hazard for people choosing to enter the water.

“We are backing the National Fire Chiefs Council’s Be Water Aware campaign once again and would encourage those visiting our reservoirs to do so safely, which means not entering the water and putting themselves at risk.”

The NFCC Be Water Aware campaign runs from 26 April – 2 May and is part of the National Drowning Prevention Strategy which aims to cut water-related deaths by 50 per cent by 2026.

Lee Miller, district officer for Wakefield at West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service added: “We know that everyone is making the most of the warmer weather and the changes in restrictions, and it’s great that we’re all starting to feel some element of normality again. However, when it comes to visiting open water, we’re joining Yorkshire Water and the NFCC in asking people to be water aware – cold water shock can kill, as can many of the other risks that open water poses.

“Last year, we in WYFRS responded to 38 water rescues across the county, be that because someone had fallen in and needed help to get out or because they had got into difficulty after getting into the water thinking it would be safe.

“With many open water sites in Wakefield in particular but across the whole of West Yorkshire, we work all year round to help people understand the risks around open water, develop ours and our partners’ risk assessments, place new signage in areas, implement safety equipment and undertake joint training with other key agencies across West Yorkshire.

“Please, if you are enjoying the beautiful countryside that West Yorkshire has to offer, please do so safely. And importantly, remember that if you or someone needs help call 999 and ask for the Fire Service immediately – our crews are trained and equipped to deal with such incidents.”