Today the focus of CFOA’s Drowning Prevention campaign is fishermen. Most people will be aware that commercial fishing is considered to be a risky business, but that’s not what we are talking about here. We are talking about those who enjoy to fish for a hobby.
A significant number of fisherman lose their lives each year. Fire and rescue services hope that by encouraging fisherman to make some changes in their behaviour, take on board some safety advice and be prepared if something should happen this number can be reduced. We want fisherman to continue to enjoy their hobby – safely.
Activities in and around water can be made safer. If we compare sailing to fishing initially it could be supposed sailing would be a higher risk activity. WAID statistics show us the opposite.
Year Sailing Fishing
2012 10 24
2013 11 14
2014 7 14
The key point is if you go sailing you might expect to end up in the water and therefore take the necessary precautions for that eventuality. Most fisherman do not expect to end up in the water and do not plan for that event.
Recent WAID statistics also show some bodies of water have a higher risk than others. Coastal fishing is higher risk. For the most part this is due to the unpredictable nature of the sea. One of the changes fisherman can make is to consider wearing a lifejacket, especially when fishing on the coast. The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) says the majority of the fatalities they see relating to fishing are people being swept from exposed shorelines and many of these lives would not have been lost if a lifejacket had been worn.
Between 2010 and 2013 the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) say about 86 lives would have been saved if lifejacket had been worn. Are we really expecting fishermen to wear a lifejacket? Well why not? Small changes in behaviour can save lives – cyclists wearing a helmet – smoke alarms installed in your home. These small changes have saved lives.
- Check forecast and weather conditions before you go
- Make sure you let someone know where you are going to fish
- Make sure you know exactly where you are – consider something like an OS locate app for a smart phone or a map
- Give someone an idea of when you are likely to return
- Take a fully charged mobile phone and check signal strength, know how to use it and who to call in an emergency
- Double check your fishing spot. Is it safe? For example, riverbanks can erode and just because it was safe one day doesn’t mean it still is
- Dress appropriately, sturdy footwear, sun hat in hot weather, warm layers in cold
- Coastal and sea fishing is particularly high risk Make sure you know your spot is safe and you won’t get cut off by the tide
- Wear a lifejacket
What to do if someone falls into deep water
Knowing how to act, quickly and appropriately can mean life or death. If you spend time near the water take a few minutes to make sure you would know how to help somebody.
- Call 999, if you are near the coast ask for the coastguard, if you are inland ask for fire service and ambulance
- The emergency services will need to know where you are. If you have a smart phone and have location services or map tool enabled this can help. If not, look around for any landmarks or signs
- Don’t hang up – stay on the line but try and continue to help the person if appropriate
- Shout for help from anyone who might be close by
- Never ever enter the water to try and save someone. This usually ends up adding to the problem. If you go into the water you are likely to suffer from cold water shock which will leave you unable to help even if you are a strong swimmer
- Can the person help themselves? Shout to them ‘Swim to me’. Keep any instructions short clear and loud. Don’t shout instructions using different words each time.
- Look around for 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 lean over the water– you may get pulled in
- If you manage to get the person out of the water they will always need medical attention. Even if they seem fine drowning can occur at a later stage if water has already entered the lungs
- If the person is unconscious you will need to check they are breathing. If they are not breathing they need 5 rescue breathes and then CPR (30 chest compressions followed by 2 rescue breathes). Continue until help arrives
- If the person is unconscious but breathing put them in the recovery position with their head lower than their body
- If they are conscious try and keep them warm. If you can, remove wet clothes and give them something dry to put on – they are at risk of hypothermia