Firefighters are urging the public to remember to ask for the fire service alongside paramedics if they see someone in trouble in water. Crews are reporting that precious minutes are being lost when well-meaning people unwittingly ask for other emergency services when calling 999.
As part of National Drowning Prevention Week recently, led by the Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS) firefighters reminded the public that despite the many great qualities of the police and ambulance service it is the fire service which is best placed to deal with rescues from water.
Crews have specialist dedicated training in swift water rescue and are skilled in the latest techniques. The Fire Service also has specialist water rescue fire stations – at Leeds, Rothwell and Rastrick where they host the most up-to-date equipment.
Watch Manager Phil Rhodes, who works at Leeds Fire Station, said: “We’ve seen quite a few incidents where the public have spotted someone in trouble in water – but asked for the police rather than the fire service to come and rescue them.
“As we all know, in any emergency every second counts and could mean the difference between life and death, so it’s essential we get to the scene as quickly as possible.”
“We just wanted to take the opportunity to remind people to think of us immediately if they see someone in trouble in the water – we really are best placed to deal with water rescues, however, people often only associate the fire service with fires which is an easy mistake to make!”
This message is something echoed by partner emergency services, who they work closely with on many water related incidents.
Superintendent Mark McManus, from West Yorkshire Police, said: “We welcome the fire service’s advice and if you do see someone in trouble in water, call the fire service. A call to the right emergency services could be the difference between life and death.”
With summer upon us crews are also issuing the following advice if you spot anyone struggling in the water.
- Can the person help themselves? Shout to them ‘Swim to me’. The water can be disorientating. This can give them a focus.
- Look around for any lifesaving equipment. Depending on where you are there might be lifebelts or throw bags – use them.
- If there is no lifesaving equipment look at what else you can use. There may be something that can help them stay afloat – even an item such as a ball can help.
- You could attempt to reach out to them. Clothes such as scarves can be used to try and reach or a long stick. If you do this lie on the ground so your entire body is safely on the edge and reach out with your arm. Don’t stand up or lean over the water– you may get pulled in.
- Be mindful that if the water is cold the person may struggle to grasp an object or hold on when being pulled in.
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