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Drowning in Surrey 'bigger cause of death than accidental house fires'

Drowning in Surrey 'bigger cause of death than accidental house fires'

Published by Josh Kerr with contributions by Local Democracy Reporter Rebecca Curley at 6:00am 17th August 2019.

Would you know what to do if you came into difficulty in water?

That's the question Surrey Fire and Rescue Service is asking as figures show drowning is a bigger killer than accidental house fires in the county.

Over a seven year period crews were called out to more than 250 incidents in Surrey's rivers and lakes, during which 34 people died.

Meanwhile fire service records show 33 people were killed in accidental house fires during that time.

The Royal Life Saving Society UK says dangers of swimming in open bodies of water include cold water shock, pollutants, currents, debris and fast-flowing water, most of which are largely invisible, unpredictable and deadly.

It is encouraging people to be 'water aware' and use common sense, and follow the Water Safety Code - created in partnership with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) - so they can have fun but stay safe.

The code states that whenever you are around water you do the following:

STOP AND THINK: Look for the dangers. Always read the signs.
STAY TOGETHER: Never swim alone. Always go with friends or family. Only swim where there is a lifeguard.

In an emergency:
CALL 999 OR 112: Shout for help and phone 999 or 112.
FLOAT: If you fall in, float or swim on your back. Throw something that floats, to anyone who has fallen in the water.

Hannah Wiggins-Bettles, from the Royal Life Saving Society UK, explains simple steps can avoid you coming into difficulty in the first place.

She said: "The first thing is to stop and think, is it the safest place for a swim?

"Are there any hidden dangers that might cause harm to you?

"We're asking people to stay together - always go swimming with friends or family."

She added: "If it is that there's an emergency and you end up in difficulty float on your back for about 60 to 90 seconds, just to allow your breathing to get under control before you try and make your way to the side.

"If you see someone in difficulty in the water then dial 999 - if you're in land ask for the fire service or the coast guard near the coast."

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