Pilot scheme launched to help prevent reservoir drownings
Throwlines installed at tragedy sites as part of initiative to improve water safety
Bereaved families, water safety campaigners and representatives from the North West’s water company and fire and rescue services will come together today (Thursday 4 April) to mark the start of a scheme to help prevent reservoir drownings.
United Utilities is hosting a special event at Greenbooth Reservoir near Rochdale, the site where Paul Lawson tragically lost his life in June 2017. Paul’s family will unveil a new throwline which has been installed in his memory.
The water company has been working with Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service and Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service to identify what can be done to help reduce the number of drowning incidents in North West reservoirs.
Throwlines are being installed at 20 locations around eight reservoirs across Greater Manchester and Lancashire, each dedicated to the memory of someone who lost their life.
Martin Padley, Water Services Director at United Utilities, said: “The land around our reservoirs is a wonderful natural resource and we want to do everything possible to encourage people to visit and enjoy the health benefits of being out in the countryside.
“However, reservoirs are too dangerous for swimming and despite our best efforts to raise awareness of the dangers there are always a few who will take a chance. Sadly, four people have lost their lives over the last two years in the North West alone.
“We hope the throwlines and the information displayed with them will help deter people from swimming and, if the worst should happen, it could make the difference between life and death.”
The throwline’s information board provides advice on how to help in an emergency and pinpoints an accurate location for fire and rescue services.
Water safety campaigner Beckie Ramsay has been raising awareness of the dangers of open water swimming through her campaign “Doing it For Dylan” following the death of her son in 2011.
She welcomed the throwline initiative: “When I lost Dylan everything changed, and I made the decision to spend the rest of my life doing whatever I can to help prevent another mum going through what I have. Dylan was a strong swimmer and he became a victim because he didn’t know the dangers of swimming in open water.
“I hope when people see the throwlines and the dedications written by the bereaved families it will make them think twice. If it stops just one youngster taking that chance it will be a success.”
Group Manager Mark Hutton, from Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service said: “We are really pleased to see a major utility provider deciding to install water safety boards and by doing so recognising just how important they can be in preventing loss of life, both in terms of the important safety messages they convey, and also their life saving function in the event of an emergency.
“We are increasingly working with colleagues from other Fire and Rescue Services, North West Fire Control and other open water site owners who are now starting to take a similarly pro-active approach at their high risk sites. Although water safety boards are an important safety measure, they are only a small part of keeping people safe around water.
“Raising awareness of the hazards that water can present is even more important and this month sees the launch of the National Fire Chiefs Council’s annual campaign – Be Water Aware. We hope that this campaign, and boards like these, have a real impact on people’s awareness of water risk as sadly every year we see loss of life which could be prevented through increased understanding and awareness.
Area Manager Paul Etches from Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service said: “We are really pleased to be working on this safety campaign with partners to help raise awareness of the throwline boards which have recently been installed at seven locations across Greater Manchester where people have lost their lives. It is also great to have family members who have lost loved ones involved in this piece of work and reaching out to prevent others suffering the way in which they have.
“Our firefighters are trained in water rescue but sometimes it just isn’t possible to get to people in time to save them. We have sadly seen 17 people drown Greater Manchester in the last three years alone, with many others suffering injuries.
“As the warmer weather approaches we want to remind people about the dangers that come with swimming in reservoirs and other open water. The throwlines can buy valuable time and help people keep their head above the water until firefighters arrive to help, however, we urge people to stay out of the water – it can be very deep and cold enough to cause shock and even the strongest swimmers can find themselves in difficulties.”
If the throwline pilot scheme is a success United Utilities will consider rolling it out to other reservoir sites around the North West.