The call comes as part the National Fire Chiefs Council’s (NFCC) Be Water Aware campaign which runs annually. The main campaign message warns people of the risk of accidentally drowning when in and around water. Nearly 50 percent of people who accidentally drowned in 2020 had no intention of entering the water. Many others underestimate the risk of jumping into cold water. In both instances, the effects of cold-water shock and not knowing how to self-rescue can cause even the strongest swimmers to drown.

Temporary Area Manager for Risk Reduction, Steve Quinton said: “Recent incidents have demonstrated the importance of heeding water safety advice when out and about. Our service area is full of beauty spots, popular for picnics, water sports and other recreational activities. We want residents to enjoy the local area, whilst heeding water safety advice.

“At AF&RS, we’re acutely aware of the hidden dangers that waterways pose to our communities and know all too well the consequences that risk-taking can have. Taking precautions and learning about what you can do in a crisis will help everyone to have a safe and enjoyable summer by the water."

Even on a warm day, the temperature in open water can remain very cold, causing a physical reaction which can make it difficult to control breathing. This can cause panic and make it difficult to swim. If you do find yourself in difficulty in the water, don’t panic, fight your instinct to thrash around, lean back in the water and float on your back until the effects of cold-water shock pass. Then you can call for help or swim to safety. If someone is in trouble in water, call 999. At the coast ask for the coastguard. If you are inland, ask for the fire service. You should never enter the water to attempt a rescue.

Dawn Whittaker, NFCC’s lead for drowning prevention said: “Most people would be shocked to hear that in 2020, 254 lives were lost simply because people were spending time in and around water. These deaths are preventable, so we ask everyone to be water aware.

“NFCC work closely with fire services and partners to encourage people to be safe around water and to highlight the risk of accidental drowning. As the weather improves fire services across the country, along with our colleagues in HM Coastguard and RNLI, can be faced with huge numbers of calls to help people in trouble in water. By raising awareness now, we hope to keep people safe and reduce the number of injuries and fatalities in water as summer approaches.”