Firefighters warn against river jumping as blue algae and car engines can lurk in Northamptonshire rivers

At The University of Northampton campus on Wednesday afternoon firefighters staged a 'throw line' water rescue drill to highlight the efforts which go into a water rescue mission.
At The University of Northampton campus on Wednesday afternoon firefighters staged a 'throw line' water rescue drill to highlight the efforts which go into a water rescue mission.

Firefighters have staged a 'live casualty' in the River Nene to showcase the risk of jumping or falling into rivers and stretches of water.

Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS) have launched a campaign this summer to highlight water safety messages after 16 people have died in the past 10 years.

Firefighters also demonstrated a 'person rescue' whereby a firefighter goes into the water - in full kit - to rescue someone who might have fallen unconscious.

Firefighters also demonstrated a 'person rescue' whereby a firefighter goes into the water - in full kit - to rescue someone who might have fallen unconscious.

Yesterday's 'live casualty' showed what is like for the fire service to rescue someone who has got out of their depth in unsafe stretches of open water after jumping or falling in.

While some people might think the water looks safe the reality is jumpers could get their feet trapped, bang their head and fall unconscious in shallow water or catch a deadly disease from blue algae.

"One of the most dangerous diseases is blue algae, which we have in some of the rivers and lakes in Northamptonshire," NFRS prevention officer Tina Collett said.

"That's obviously really serious because it's deadly. We still get people swimming all the time in lakes that have got that."

Tina said she has come across shopping trolleys, car engines and old bicycles in rivers before, and dangerous tree parts, which can get caught around legs and impair the ability to swim.

Despite this campaign being launched in the summer it is not just the teenage demographic who like to take a dip.

"Last summer because it was really hot we had families and young people, and babies as young as six months, being taken into the water, so that is really serious."

But the takeaway message from today was don’t think twice about calling the fire service if someone has got into danger in the open water.

"You need to call us if anything happens," Tina added. "Today is to try and highlight we are the right people to call. Dial 999 straight away.

"Never go in and rescue that person yourself because we will end up having two casualties or two people to rescue.

"If you do come across somebody there are things you can do. So, rather than getting into the water straight away to try and save them, we would encourage you to use something with you like an empty plastic bottle or a football they can use to float."

In the last 10 years, 16 people have lost their lives in stretches of water in Northamptonshire. Last year alone, NFRS carried out seven water rescues involving people.

Unplanned falls into water are also a risk factor and, nationally, year on year, runners and walkers make up the highest percentage of accidental incidents of drowning.

"Because banks are quite steep and slippy people could end up in the water unintentionally while they are walking home, "Tina said.

"We are trying to highlight if you have been drinking or taking drugs please don't walk back along the water. Walk back with a buddy who can help you."

Northamptonshire Fire & Rescue Service have issued the following water safety advice:

- Do not dive or ‘tombstone’ into open water. It is not always easy to judge the height of a fall and there may be submerged objects which cannot be seen. It is also likely to be colder than you think.

- If you are drinking alcohol on a night out, remember to take a route home away from waterways and make sure your friends get home safely too.

- Avoid walking or running near water in the dark or in slippery conditions/bad weather.

- UK water temperatures are 10-15°C, even in summer. This is chilly enough to cause cold water shock, making you gasp uncontrollably and breathe in water which can quickly lead to drowning. Cold water can affect your ability to swim out of trouble.

- Always supervise young children around water, whether at a pool or at the beach and regardless or not of whether they can swim.

- It is great to enjoy warm weather, but please do this safely. On the beach, swim in between the flags and make sure you are on a beach which has a lifeguard. Do not swim at unsupervised sites, including quarries, reservoirs and rivers.

- If you know someone has fallen into water, call 999 straightaway. If you don’t have a phone, shout for help but do not enter the water. Emergency services will need as much information as possible to pinpoint where you are. Look for landmarks, signs on bridges or use mobile phone location app or map to help. If there is rescue equipment nearby, throw this to them.

- If you fall into water, keep calm and try to float on your back, belly up and with arms and legs stretched into a star shape. Gently move your hands and feet to help you float. When you are calm, raise your arm and shout for help.

- Human nature says you are likely to attempt to help while rescue services are on the way, but never enter the water to try to save someone as this can add to the problem. If you go into the water, you could also suffer from cold water shock, which will leave you unable to help, even if you are a strong swimmer.