Drowning prevention week

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The beaches and coastline from Rye to Hastings have become increasingly popular since last year’s lockdowns and in 2021, the trend is set to continue now that the staycation season is underway.

The Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK), fears that with lockdown restrictions lifting, families will flock to beaches and inland water locations this summer without considering the potential dangers, putting themselves and others at risk.

This is something already being seen by local coastal rescue services, including Pett Level Independent Rescue Boat (PLIRB) and local RNLI services. Local beaches at Rye Harbour, Winchelsea Beach and Pett Level are already seeing increased visitor numbers and anticipate more when, as happened last year, road access to the beaches at Camber Sands is closed once number limits are reached and Camber is designated as “full”.

In response, and with several rescue and first aid incidents already this summer, local volunteers at PLIRB are joining the RLSS UK-wide national drowning prevention week campaign in urging parents to make sure their children know how to stay safe and enjoy the water along local coastlines this summer.

Enjoy water safely – a key message for East Sussex

The drowning prevention week campaign begins on Saturday, June 19 and runs until Saturday, June 26. The campaign aims to ensure everyone knows how to have fun and stay safe near water, by equipping everybody across the UK and Ireland with the skills and knowledge to make the right decisions about water safety.

Drowning facts messaging from the Royal Life Saving Society

Over 400 people accidentally drown in the UK and Ireland every year, and many more suffer injury, sometimes life-changing, when they survive drowning. Locally, with 58 deaths by drowning in 2019, East Sussex has one of the highest drowning totals in the UK.

Sharing the safety messages

PLIRB are sharing the RLSS campaign resources, which they are also complementing with their own social media messaging about some of the particular hazards and issues along local coastlines and waterways which can lead to drowning.

With RLSS figures indicating that around 25 per cent of primary pupils leave school unable to swim, experts fear that the enforced pool closures during the pandemic over the last year will leave many young people lacking the ability to swim or self-rescue. Steve Hill, helm and launch authority at PLIRB, who usually makes visits to schools and community groups warning of the beach and coastal hazards in the area, is also concerned that because of the pandemic his usual community safety talks have not been possible.

Steve Hill usually visits schools with safety messages, but the pandemic has prevented this for the last year

Steve’s talks to schoolchildren and their parents always include information about the risks when using inflatables at the seaside and, with the hot weather of the recent few weeks, Steve is particularly concerned about getting safety advice out there. Steve’s urgent message to parents is: “please remember that inflatables are made to be used in a pool, not in open water where they could quite easily be blown offshore or washed out to sea. If you do use them on the beach, please remember to either be in the water with your child, or make sure that the inflatable is tethered safely.”

Chair of the PLIRB charity, Kev Nuttall, says: “We live in a beautiful part of the country and are proud to play our part in ensuring families have a safe and happy summer. We recognise how vitally important it is for children to know how to stay safe near water, and we urge local and visiting parents to access RLSS UK’s free water safety resources on the Charity’s website.”

The Royal Life Saving Society UK’s Charity Director Lee Heard, said: “The UK’s beautiful waterways should be places where everyone feels at ease, and can take pleasure from their surroundings, whatever their age, whatever their activity level. But we’re urging people to educate themselves on how to enjoy water safely, and prevent a fun day out ending in tragedy.

The drowning prevention week campaign is crucial this year. Throughout 2020 and 2021, young people have missed out on the vital opportunity to swim, leaving a dramatic gap in school swimming and water safety education. RLSS UK believes that through free, accessible education and training, everyone can enjoy water safely. We urge as many parents as possible to get involved with the campaign, use our free online resources, and give their children the skills to enjoy a lifetime of fun in the water.”

For more information and to access free resources from the Royal Life Saving Society, please visit www.rlss.org.uk.

For more information about Pett Level Independent Rescue Boat, please visit plirb.com.

Image Credits: The Royal Life Saving Society , Royal Life Saving Society https://www.rlss.org.uk/drowning-facts, Katherine Crowther .

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