Schoolchildren from across Northamptonshire swam in the River Nene as part of an event aimed at raising awareness of the potential dangers of open water.
Students from four secondary schools, guided by instructors and safety experts, were allowed into the river to experience what it is like to contend with currents and cold temperatures when swimming.
The activity, held at the Nene Whitewater Centre in Northampton today (Wednesday), was part of a special Water Safety Day organised to coincide with the Royal Life Saving Society’s Drowning Prevention Week (June 18-26).
Organisers of the day included the centre’s staff as well as Northamptonshire Sport and Northamptonshire Fire & Rescue Service (NFRS). The students involved were from The Duston School, The Ferrers School, Huxlow Science College and Rushden Academy.
The aim of the day was to teach young people more about water safety, how to carry out safe rescues and about how to carry out lifesaving techniques.
Anglian Water has also lent its support to the event by donating £100 to each school to help support the students’ ideas for communicating key water safety messages to other pupils who were not able to take part in the day.
Steve Jackson, Schools Swimming Manager at Northamptonshire Sport, said: “This is the third year we have run this and it always has a positive impact in teaching young people more about CPR, about the potential dangers of open water swimming and the effects that cold water can have on the body.
“Sometimes it isn’t effective just to say to children ‘don’t do this’, but it is better to make sure they are informed and know more about the decisions they make when it comes to their behaviour in or near water.”
Since 2009, Northamptonshire Fire & Rescue Service has rescued 88 people from water, including nine people who died and eight people who were injured. In the year 2015-2016 alone, 19 people were rescued from water.
These rescues included a variety of circumstances, such as multiple cases involving people who were freed from cars stuck in water.
Nationally, one person drowns every 20 hours in the UK and hundreds more suffer life changing injuries through near drowning.
Jo Gouldson, Community Safety Officer at NFRS, said: “Drowning Prevention Week gives us an excellent opportunity to educate young people about water safety messages and the Water Safety Day at Nene Whitewater Centre has allowed us to do that in a very practical way, so pupils can get a real sense of conditions in the water.
“It doesn’t matter how strong a swimmer people think they are, stretches of open water always have dangers, whether that be cold temperatures, depth and strong currents, or hidden hazards in the water itself. It is important this is properly understood by people of all ages who might consider this kind of activity.”