More people could enter York’s rivers this spring as lockdown restrictions are lifted, water safety teams have warned.
There are fears that the reopening of bars and restaurants combined with warmer weather and a relaxation of social distancing rules could see people jumping into the river or falling in by accident.
York Water Safety Forum is urging people to be cautious near the rivers and look out for their friends as the city reopens.
Group manager Andy Blades from North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said: “After time away from the city we know people will be keen to enjoy all that York has to offer.
“However, as a fire and rescue service we have concerns that people may be tempted to enjoy the hospitality of the city more than ever and that could have serious consequences in terms of water related incidents.
“We know that if you’ve been out for a few drinks it’s easy to not really think about the consequences of your actions, whether that’s jumping into the rivers because it looks fun or slipping and falling in because you’ve got too close to the edge.
“On warmer days the rivers can also look like tempting places to cool off but they are full of hidden dangers.
“Our message for when the city starts to open back up is to be aware of your surroundings and if you’re heading out for drinks look out for your friends and try to avoid taking shortcuts home that take you near the rivers.”
Mental health concerns
The forum has met throughout lockdown and includes representatives from the fire service, police, York Rescue Boat, the two universities, Canal and River Trust, mental health experts and other organisations.
City of York Council is also working on a strategy to encourage people to act responsibly as lockdown restrictions lift.
From April 12 outdoor hospitality, shops and most outdoor visitor attractions could be allowed to reopen under the Prime Minister’s plan to lift restrictions.
Groups of six people, or two households, are also set to be permitted to meet outdoors.
Chairman of the National Water Safety Forum George Rawlinson warned earlier this year that organisations “must be ready for a time when restrictions will be lifted and we may, once again, see record-levels of visitors at the UK’s coastal and inland water destinations”.
Staff from pubs, clubs and restaurants near the rivers in York have been given water safety training by York Water Safety Forum to help save lives. The group also runs events for university students about staying safe near water.
But there are also concerns about people with mental health issues entering the water. In 2018, 85 per cent of incidents attended by York Rescue Boat involved people suffering from mental health problems.
Call Samaritans 24-hour freephone number 116 123
Water safety advice
If you see someone in trouble in the water, do not enter the water. Dial 999 and ask for the fire service.
Try to throw something out to them – a life ring, throw line or even an item of clothing
If you fall in, don not struggle, lie back and keep your airways clear, push your stomach up and extend your limbs moving hands and feet to help you float