Berkshire fire service highlights dangers of water ahead of school holidays

  • Watch the full report by ITV Meridian's Mel Bloor

With the school holidays almost upon us, firefighters are warning of the risks of swimming in rivers and lakes.

Last year, Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service (RBFRS) responded to 36 water rescue incidents involving people getting into difficulty in Berkshire’s waterways – an increase of 50 per cent since 2020.

Of those, 42% of incidents occurred in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead – the highest number throughout Berkshire.

That was followed by 28% in Reading.

RBFRS say they want people to have fun but want to ensure if an emergency unfolds, people know what to do Credit: ITV News Meridian

As part of RBFRS' #WaterWise safety campaign, a water safety event took place at Pangbourne Meadows, next to Whitchurch Bridge in Berkshire.

Staff from Thames Valley Police, Pangbourne Parish Council and members of the local community received training on how to use a throw line – a rescue device which can be thrown to someone in difficulty in the water.

Firefighters from Caversham Road Fire Station (Green Watch) were also on hand to explain the dangers of swimming in open bodies of water, including cold water shock.

They provided a live demonstration of the ‘float to live’ technique in the nearby River Thames.

The 'float to live' technique encourages people experiencing cold water shock to relax and control their breathing Credit: ITV News Meridian

Neil Whiteman, Community Safety Advisor, RBFRS, said: “We are urging people to take care around Berkshire’s waterways this year. These events provide a valuable opportunity to share water safety advice with our partners in the emergency services.

“There are numerous natural and man-made hazards located in our waterways, such as varying water currents, weirs, reed beds and dangerous objects beneath the surface that have been carelessly discarded.

“Cold water is another hazard that can have serious consequences and can endanger even the strongest swimmers. Even on a warm day the temperature in open water can remain very cold, causing cold water shock.

“If you do see someone in difficulty remember ‘Call, Tell and Throw – Call 999, tell the person to float on their back and throw something to them to help them float.”

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