Drowning dangers of hot-weather swimming

PEACEFUL: Hurstwood Reservoir, taken in August by Brian Ashworth. (S)
PEACEFUL: Hurstwood Reservoir, taken in August by Brian Ashworth. (S)

Every year, as summer arrives, we hear of dreadful stories of people drowning in open waters – dams, reservoirs, and canal locks.

I recently attended a conference aimed at raising awareness of the danger this presents. The conference was part of a campaign run by 2BR and some national newspapers. The intention is to raise funds for an interactive truck that will tour schools and show how dangerous it can be, regardless of how smooth, cool and inviting the water looks.

How big is the problem? In the past three years, Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service has been called out to 60 water rescues.

The representative of Lancashire Fire and Rescue at the conference told those attending that frequently when the temperatures rise, he and other fire fighters head to places like Barrowford Locks to warn people of the dangers of swimming there.

Nationally, accidental drowning causes more than 400 deaths a year – it is the third highest cause of death in children in the UK.

Each of these deaths present a tragic individual story – it could be your son or daughter, your brother or sister. It could be you.

At the conference I met the founder of the “Doing it for Dylan” campaign.

Dylan was a lively 13-year-old Lancashire lad who drowned swimming in a quarry. It was another unnecessary and tragic death.

Choosing a dangerous place to swim is just one issue. We need to look at prevention measures, education, risk assessments and other areas.

In my mind both swim-safe education and competent swimming skills are important, but it needs everyone to pitch in and reinforce the message.

Friends, parents, and neighbours, as well as teachers and campaigners, need to push the point that swimming in open waters can so easily, quickly, and surprisingly lead to a tragic death of someone close to you.