Cowes Harbour Commission has launched a campaign to support both the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the National Water Safety Forum (NWSF) in recognising the first World Drowning Prevention Day (WDPD) on Sunday 25 July. This historic and recently declared initiative recognises the necessity to reduce the ‘deeply concerning’ global annual figure of deaths due to drowning.
The date for WDPD is especially timely as the schools have broken up and the number of incidents in Cowes harbour historically increases during the summer months. The WHO reports that drowning is in the top ten global causes of death for children between the ages of 5 and 14. ‘Tombstoning’ is a practice that is especially dangerous in the UK, along with generally diving into and swimming in the harbour.
Cowes has, unfortunately, seen serious life-changing incidents in the past, but we have not had any fatalities. However, The Commission is committed to preventing all accidents due to dangerous swimming in prohibited areas of the harbour. In 2020, CHC worked with Isle of Wight Council to increase the amount of signage visible in areas where swimming is not permitted around the harbour and this year the campaign will raise awareness of safety around the water. Further information will be issued on the CHC website and social media channels.
In supporting the WHO initiative, we will be asking schools to contact children and parents to make them aware of water safety around the harbour and detailing the areas where it is safe to cool off in the sea and river during the summer. In addition, we will be using social media to inform children, as well as joining with the Police and RNLI in increasing vigilance and the use of CCTV of the landing, jetties and marinas to spot and prevent children, and adults, from entering the water.
According to the Royal Lifesaving Society UK, each year around 700 people drown in the UK and Ireland. Additionally, about 2,100 people in England alone, are admitted to Accident and Emergency annually, as non-fatal, or ‘near drowning’ incidents, with thousands more incidences occurring in Wales and Scotland. Therefore, over the coming weeks, CHC will also be focussing on preventing other activities which greatly increase the risk of drowning, including not using personal floatation devices and kill cords when necessary and unsafe use of small boats.