The 'swimsafe' scheme is just one initiative carried out by firefighters at the station which enables them to work with the community and create opportunities to pass on safety messages in a positive environment.
Blue Watch Taunton has been successfully running the scheme since November 9, 2009 and it is the only scheme of its kind run by a fire service in the country. The fire station is also home to the local boxing club and has a community room which can be booked by groups and associations from around the area.
Swimsafe project manager Ben Swaine and the swimsafe team of Nathan Brina, Austin Norton and Kieran Mighty, started the scheme to be proactive in reducing water deaths. Firefighter Nathan Brina, of Blue Watch, said: "We see the fire station as being part of the wider community and are always looking for new ways to provide services with safety in mind.
"It also has a serious side because as a Service we do have a water rescue capability and sometimes have to rescue people from rivers and lakes. If people can swim, they have a greater chance of survival should they find themselves in difficulty."
Every year, accidental drowning in the UK is suspected to be the cause of death of 435 people (source: ROSPA 2005) and children make up a significant number of these deaths. The fire service is called to many of these water rescue incidents.
Blue Watch runs the swimsafe scheme on Monday evenings, in term time, from St George's School pool. Head Teacher Mr Peter Hanratty is very accommodating and supportive in allowing the fire service to use the facilities for the project. All the firefighters involved have lifeguard qualifications and one instructor has swimming teaching qualifications.
The lessons start at 4pm and finish at 6pm, consisting of two sessions. There are no more than six children in a class and the fire crews provide a level two teacher, swim helper and fully qualified lifeguard.
The classes are not open to the general public and the decision as to who attends the lessons is left to the discretion of the head teacher. The children and parents visited Taunton Fire Station recently and were shown some of the water safety equipment to show the link between what firefighters do at the station and the swimming lessons.
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