Stay safe by water this summer

The Canal & River Trust, the waterways and wellbeing charity which cares for 2,000 miles of waterways in England and Wales, is urging families, particularly with children, to stay out of the water and to pledge to stay away from the edge this summer.

With the inaugural World Drowning Prevention Day taking place on 25th July, at the start of the summer holidays, the charity is asking families to stay SAFE near water – Stay Away From the Edge. Repeating this message to children will help them remember what to do near water.

Summer is one of the most popular times for people to visit Britain’s canals and rivers. With more people remaining local and holidaying close to home this year, the Trust is expecting many of its waterways to be particularly popular. In summer 2020, during the pandemic, canals were a local outdoor lifeline for many people. Visits in many urban areas more than doubled as people headed to one of the Trust’s canals or rivers for their exercise and to get closer to nature.

However, of the 400 people who drown in the UK every year, more than half the fatalities happen at inland waters such as canals, rivers, lakes, quarries and reservoirs.

The charity is asking people to experience all the safe ways to enjoy the canals this summer but to avoid getting in the water:

  • Canal and river water will be really cold, even in the summer, and emersion in cold water could bring on cold water shock
  • Have a cool drink instead
  • If you want to jump and dive, head to your local swimming pool. Canals can be shallow and you could hurt yourself if you jump in
  • Lounge in the shade of waterside trees, rather than get tangled in waterway reeds
  • Have an ice lolly at a waterside café
  • Keep your cool – chill out by the water and enjoy the feeling of peacefulness it brings you

Debbie Lumb, national health & safety advisor at the Canal & River Trust explains: “Spending time on or by Britain’s waterways is a lovely way to spend a summer’s day and they are excellent places for families to explore during the warm weather. But it’s also important that people, especially children and teenagers, are aware of the dangers of cooling off by going for a dip. The consequences can be devastating.

“Inland waterways, like canals, rivers, reservoirs and docks can look really inviting but you can’t tell what is below the surface. The water often isn’t clear and you won’t be able to see the depth or any obstacles in the water. Please stay away from the edge and don’t get in the water, it’s just not worth it. If you want to swim outside, find an open water swimming club near you by visiting the Canal & River Trust website.”

“There are lots of water safety themed activities available for children on our website, a great thing to do when out for a stroll along the canal and a chance to talk to kids about water safety at the same time.”

The Canal & River Trust ‘Explorers’ water safety programme, which focuses on children in Key Stage 2 of the National Curriculum, aims to help young people learn about and enjoy their local canal or river safely and can also be used towards a number of Cub Scout and Brownie badges. Dozens of volunteers nationwide help the Trust each year by visiting schools and speaking to youth groups about their local canal or river.

See the free resources available and how to help the Trust educate young people about their local canal or river.

Get tips on how to talk to your children about water safety and staying safe near canals and rivers.

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Welcome back, but stay safe

The Manchester Water Safety Partnership (MWSP) is urging people to stay safe by the water this spring as people return to waterside pubs, bars and restaurants following the easing of coronavirus restrictions.

From 12 April 2021, when people in England will be able to visit the outside areas of bars, pubs and restaurants, the MWSP, is reminding people to take care when drinking near the water and to take a route home away from the water’s edge.

David Wilson, chair of Manchester Water Safety Partnership, said: “It’s great that people can now meet up with friends as restrictions continue to ease but make sure to stay safe when enjoying yourself.

“On your way home after a fun day or night out, you and your friends need to be careful. If you’ve had a few drinks, don’t walk home by the water’s edge, find another route. Stay with and look out for your friends to make sure that you all get home safely.”

Debbie Lumb, national health and safety advisor at Canal and River Trust added: “How wonderful that we can enjoy spring with friends and family at one of the many waterside pubs, bars and restaurants.

We know that spending time by water and being close to nature is good for your health and wellbeing, we just want those visiting the wonderful canal-side pubs, bars and restaurants to take care after they’ve been drinking.”

Stay safe this April:

  • Look out for your friends, make sure you all get home safely.
  • Find another route home away from the water’s edge.
  • Don’t enter the water if you have been drinking.
  • Alcohol seriously affects your ability to get yourself out of trouble.

More advice:
Summer Water Safety
Stay safe on a night out
Bereaved families warn of water dangers
Throw-line locations
Social media assets to share

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Back on the town? Stay safe

The Manchester Water Safety Partnership is urging people to keep safe, as many of Manchester’s bars, restaurants and pubs are set to re-open on Saturday, 4 July, in line with government guidance.

The Ashton, Rochdale and Bridgewater canals run right through the heart of the city centre with many bars located next to the water. The partnership has been working hard to improve water safety.  Earlier this year barriers were installed at Lock 89 and rescue equipment at Lock 89 (Tib Lock) and Lock 87 (Canal Street) to stop people falling into the water.

Many businesses have also taken part in throw-line training and lighting has been upgraded along the canals in the city centre. Banners will be placed along the water and targeted social media shared to help people stay safe and remind them not to walk home near water after they have been drinking.

The partnership would like people to enjoy themselves, but remember:

  • Look out for each other when you’ve had a few drinks and make sure you travel home with friends – plan your journey home before you go out
  • Don’t walk home alongside the water after drinking. Find a better route home – make sure your friends get home safely
  • Don’t ever be tempted to cool off by jumping in canals or rivers

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service Station Manager David Wilson, who is the Chair of the Manchester Water Safety Partnership, said: “The Manchester Water Safety Partnership would like to remind people who decide to visit Manchester city centre as bars, pubs and restaurants re-open about staying safe around the canals. 

“The city centre is a wonderful place to visit and enjoy a day or night out, but it also has many waterways which run through it. As we sadly know too well, water and alcohol do not mix with many young men drowning after falling into canals in the city centre.

“Please keep safe by looking out for your friends and by staying together. Plan your route home before you go out and don’t ever be tempted to walk by waterways after you’ve had a drink.”

Greater Manchester’s night-time economy adviser, Sacha Lord, said: “If you are planning on heading into Manchester for drinks, as pubs, restaurants and bars start to re-open in line with government guidance we want you stay safe. Both safe in relation to the ongoing pandemic – by following social distancing measures and other guidance in place – and also around the city-region’s many water ways.

“We know people just want to have a good time but please bear in mind dangers that are around us, which we might not think about after a few drinks. It’s best to just avoid walking by the canals at night, especially if you have been drinking alcohol, and please keep an eye on your friends.”

More advice:
Summer Water Safety
Stay safe on a night out
Bereaved families warn of water dangers
Throw-line locations
Social media assets to share

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Bereaved families warn of water dangers

Family members who have lost loved ones in tragic drowning incidents are urging people to stay safe around water, as parts of the UK are set to be hit by hot weather.

In Greater Manchester, eight young men, aged between 13 and 21-years-old, have lost their lives due to accidental drowning in the last four years. Most of them had jumped into water on a hot day to cool off over the summer months.

Across England last year, 147 people accidentally drowned in open water.

Chris Jordan is the uncle of Jack Pullen, who drowned in July 2016 at age 16.

Chris said: “Our Jack wasn’t strong enough to beat the water and we tragically lost him forever. We lost a huge part of us. He was just 16 and had his whole life ahead of him. Our family chain is broken and it can never ever be repaired.

“When the weather is hot and the water looks inviting, stop, think and remember. Don’t think there is no danger because the water is calm. Please stay out of the water.”

Since Jack’s death, Chris has set up the Jack Pullen Foundation to help raise awareness of the dangers of open water.

Dylan Ramsay drowned in a quarry on July 3, 2011, at 13-years-old. His mum, Beckie Ramsay, has been campaigning to raise awareness of the dangers of open water since that time and has worked with Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) and Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service.

Beckie said: “It’s almost nine years since we lost our first-born son, Dylan. My eldest child – the one who was paving the way for his younger siblings, the one my babies looked up to. It’s as sore today as the day it happened. My heart is shattered into a million pieces, my family never to be the same.

“Every time we see the hot weather my heart hurts waiting for that news flash, waiting to hear that another family will start this nightmare that we now call life.

“The hardest thing is not being able to fix the pain your other children feel. Grief comes in waves so one day it could be me that’s really suffering, the next day it could be my husband, then my children. We are in a constant cycle of pain and heartache, and there is no cure for this.”

Area Manager Paul Fearnhead from GMFRS said: “We don’t want to stop people having fun, however, safety is paramount so we want to remind young people and their parents and carers of the dangers associated with going into reservoirs, lakes, rivers or other types of open water, especially as the weather warms up and people spend more time outdoors.

“Cold Water Shock affects even the strongest of swimmers and can kill you in just 60 seconds. You also never know what is lurking beneath the surface – people have drowned after getting tangled up in undergrowth and other things hiding in the water.”

Water safety messages are reinforced through Safe4Summer – a partnership campaign between GMFRS, Greater Manchester Police (GMP) and the 10 local authorities.

Superintendent Chris Bridge from Greater Manchester Police said: “Over the coming days and for the rest of the summer, we’re urging you all to be water aware and to stay out of open water. If you get into trouble, it not only endangers your life, but also the lives of others who would go into the water to help you.

“I hope that people will recognise the dangers and the tragic consequences that can come from being in open water – no matter how tempting it may be during the hot weather.”

Towards the end of summer 2019, GMFRS also worked with the family and friends of two teenage boys who drowned on holiday in Austria to raise awareness of the dangers of open water. You can find further details on GMFRS’ website.

Thanks to the work of the Water Manchester Safety Partnership there are now reach poles installed in different locations of the Rochdale Canal, where young people have lost their lives.

A picture of Jack Pullen who drowned in July 2016 at age 16

Jack Pullen drowned in July 2016

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Take extra care if exercising around water

Drowning Prevention Week 2020 will see Manchester Water Safety Partnership focus on helping people stay safe around water in line with the Government’s guidance and restrictions to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

The dedicated week of action runs from April 20 to April 26 this year and is led by the National Fire Chiefs’ Council (NFCC) and supported by fire and rescue services all over the UK, including Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS).

During the week messages will be shared on GMFRS’ social media channels, as well as those of partners, urging people to take extra care around their local waterways while exercising.

Area Manager Paul Fearnhead from Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service said: “We want to keep everyone safe during lockdown while adhering to Government guidance, which includes practising social distancing and exercising locally once a day.

“Where possible we ask that you stay away from open water, but if you do find yourself near water while exercising then please take extra care and be mindful that there are less people around at the moment to raise the alarm if you find yourself in difficulty.

“We ask if possible that you let someone know where you are going to exercise and when you are coming back and always abide by any signage you see. Also, be sure to look out for hazards around water, stick to proper paths and bear in mind social distancing ahead of venturing out to exercise – often paths along canals and rivers are narrow.

“We also want to remind dog owners never to enter the water if their dog jumps or falls in. Most dogs manage to scramble out but some owners are not so lucky.”

Read more water safety advice from GMFRS.

Follow social media activity during the week using the hashtag #BeWaterAware

The Royal Life Saving Society give suggestions for fun activities to help keep your children entertained at home, while also teaching them about water safety.

The Canal and River Trust also have a selection of fun games for children to enjoy at home.

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Charlie’s Good Deed Day

The family of Charlie Pope, who died in a Manchester city centre canal in March 2018, has asked people to honour him by doing a good deed in his memory.

The death of the 19-year-old University of Manchester student prompted a campaign calling for a review into Manchester’s waterways and his family are calling on people to ‘turn a negative into a positive’ by doing something nice on the anniversary of the tragic event.

A picture of Charlie Pope

Charlie Pope

The heartbroken family have named March 1 ‘Charlie’s Good Deed Day’ and hope Charlie will be remembered through acts of random kindness.

The family said: “We are approaching the hardest day of our year. There is such a huge hole in our family. Time doesn’t make it any easier – it just makes you realise how long it’s been since we saw his face, his smile, since we heard his voice and his laughter. The thought that people are being kind and creating smiles in his name will undoubtedly help us bare the pain at this time of year.

“A simple gesture that will make someone smile is all that’s required, be it a bunch of flowers, holding a door open for someone, carrying their shopping to the car. Just tell them why you are doing it by mentioning Charlie’s Good Deed Day. Charlie was a very generous and giving young man and always a joker so for people to smile in his memory would make him so proud.”

Find out more about Charlie’s Good Deed Day.

Watch and listen to Charlie’s dad and others talking about him and offering advice about staying safe near water:

See more water safety advice.

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Revellers urged to take care near water

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) is continuing its mission to keep people safe around water running up to Christmas.

Firefighters have delivered water safety training to managers and landlords of bars close to waterways as part of its plan to educate more people about water safety and prevent drowning incidents, particularly in Manchester city-centre.

Training has taken place around Deansgate Locks jointly delivered by GMFRS and Royal Life Saving Society UK, with support from CityCo and Greater Manchester Police.

The prevention work supports that carried out across the UK by organisations and charities, such as the Royal Life Saving Society UK – which is running its latest Don’t Drink and Drown Campaign from Monday, December 2 until Sunday, December 8.

The main messages of this year’s campaign are for people not to walk home near open water – such as the canals that run through Manchester city-centre – and to stay with their friends after they have been drinking.

Area Manager Damian O’Rourke from Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service said: “We are pleased to be supporting the latest Don’t Drink and Drown campaign and want to take the opportunity to remind people – especially those out drinking in the run up to Christmas – to take extra care around water.

“Our firefighters are trained in water rescue but sometimes it just isn’t possible to get to people in time to save them. We have sadly seen too many people drown in Greater Manchester, with many incidents happening in the canals in the city-centre.

“If you are out enjoying drinks with your friends please never walk along the canals alone and always try and plan your journey home at the start of your night out. It’s also really important to stay together, and if a friend has had one too many then do the right thing and help them to get home safe.”

Following the death of 19-year-old Charlie Pope in March 2018 in Manchester, his father, Nick Pope, has been working closely with the Manchester Water Safety Partnership. Earlier this year barriers were installed along the stretch of canal where Charlie drowned, with the fencing now directing people to cross the canal using an existing footbridge.

Nick attended a student safety event in Manchester on the evening of Thursday, November 28, 2019, organised and led by Greater Manchester’s Night Time Economy Adviser Sacha Lord and attended by the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham.

Sacha Lord, Night Time Economy Adviser for Greater Manchester, said: “For the first time all four universities came together to discuss safety for students with a view to creating a Student Safety Charter – which will launch initially at the four Universities across our city-region, with the view to spread it further amongst colleges and other forms of higher education.”

Nick Pope said: “It was a really worthwhile event, which was such a success due to the large attendance, great engagement and searching questions. This can only result in better safety for the students and citizens of Manchester.”

Over the last five years there have been 1,481 accidental deaths in the UK and more than 30 per cent of the victims were found to have alcohol and/or drugs in their bloodstream.

The Don’t Drink and Drown campaign gives essential advice to party-goers to make sure they know how to stay safe when they’re out celebrating.

Follow activity running on social media #DontDrinkAndDrown

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Don’t Drink and Drown week 2019

We’re supporting the Royal Life Saving Society’s annual Don’t Drink and Drown campaign.

Did you know that more than a quarter of all accidental drowning victims had alcohol and/or drugs in their system?

Latest stats show that nearly 450 accidentally drowned in the last five years whilst under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. That’s an average of 90 per year. Many of these drowned because they walked alone near water and fell in.

We are helping RLSS UK in their efforts to cut down the number of intoxicated drownings and are urging people to #BEAMATE by looking out for their friends.

The key messages are:

  • Look out for your friends, make sure they get home safely
  • If you’ve had a drink, stay away from the water
  • Find an alternative route home, don’t walk home near the water
  • Stay away from the water in winter, cold water shock kills

When drinking, remember the effects this can have on you:

  • Alcohol lowers inhibitions, leading to impaired judgement which means you are more likely to take risks and get in trouble
  • Alcohol limits muscle ability making simple movements much harder
  • Alcohol slows down your reactions making it more difficult to get yourself out of trouble
  • Alcohol numbs the senses making swimming very difficult

The Don’t Drink and Drown campaign, this year running from 2 to 9 December, was first launched in 2014 following a string of tragic drownings of young people.

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Bereaved family and friends issue warnings

After the first anniversary of two teenage boys drowning on holiday, their loved ones have reminded people of the dangers of swimming in open water.

Jason Varghese, 15, and his older cousin Joel Aniyankunj, 19, were on holiday in Austria last summer, and both drowned while on a boat trip with their family members on August 23, 2018.

Following on from the tragic accident Jason’s and Joel’s loved ones are urging young people not to swim in open water – both at home and on holiday – while also reaching out to parents to raise awareness and save others the heartache they have experienced.

Mother Suby Varghese holding a picture of her dead son and his cousin

Jason’s mum, Suby Varghese, said: “We all went on a much-awaited holiday to visit family members in Austria. The heat became too much for us so our relatives decided that a boating trip would be nice and that the kids would go for a swim – so we gave them their swimming costumes and off they went.

“We received a call from relatives to say ‘you need to come’, but they didn’t tell us anymore. Jason had gone into the water for a swim but soon got into distress. Joel, our nephew, went in the water to help Jason, then they both disappeared under the water.”

Emergency services arrived quickly but couldn’t find Jason and Joel due to the thick undergrowth.

Suby continued: “Both boys were strong swimmers but they became tangled in the weeds. The search went on for hours and professional divers found them later in the day.

“Parents should be aware of dangers around open water – we don’t want any other family to go through what we have – we miss them every day. They were so full of life and we can’t get over the fact they’re still not here – it’s still very raw.

“They were loving, caring boys. The fact that they’re not here is heart-breaking – had we known the dangers we wouldn’t have sent them that day. Please don’t swim in open water.”

Robbie Woodcock and Sam Gibbons, both 16, shared their experiences of losing one of their best friends and the impact it has had on them

Robbie said: “Last year I was talking to Jason before he went on holiday about joining the gym, and a few days later I got a message to say he had drowned on holiday.

“Since Jason has passed away we all miss him loads, especially at certain times, like the school prom – which he was really looking forward to. It’s a shame he wasn’t there with us.

“Please don’t swim in open water – we don’t want anyone to go through what we all have since losing Jason.”

Sam said: “I was on holiday at the same time as Jason and I got a text from Robbie. At first I didn’t believe it because we had recently all been talking in a group, and before that we had played football together. It hit us all hard.

“We just feel that without Jason here we miss his presence and laughter. In the limo for our prom it just wasn’t the same. We notice him missing from our group of friends – there’s always one person missing, and that’s Jason.”


The important water safety messages reinforce Safe4Summer – a partnership campaign between GMFRS, Greater Manchester Police, and the 10 local authorities in Greater Manchester.

Area Manager Damian O’Rourke from Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service said: “We really appreciate Jason and Joel’s loved ones supporting our water safety campaigns and work. Hearing from people who have lost family members and friends is extremely sad but really helps strengthen our safety messages and advice, with the ultimate aim of keeping people out of harm’s way.

“This year’s partnership campaign Safe4Summer focuses on a number of key themes, including water safety – so our new suite of case studies involving Jason’s mum, friends and teacher, really do play an important role in reaching out to different audiences – whether that be to young people directly, or their parents and other family members.

“We don’t want to stop people having fun, however, safety is paramount so we want to remind young people, and their parents and carers, of the dangers associated with our water ways – so please take a look at our Safe4Summer website and watch the new videos highlighting just how easy people can drown in open water, and the heartache caused by such incidents.”

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