More than 100,000 schoolchildren in the Birmingham area will be safer at the seaside thanks to a new initiative launched in response to a tragic double drowning on the Welsh coast last summer.
Birmingham City Council, the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) and others organisations have formed a new working partnership as the city aims to make water safety education a priority across Birmingham schools in 2017.
Two teenage boys visiting Barmouth from Birmingham in August 2016 tragically lost their lives after getting into difficulty in the water.
The teenagers were visiting Barmouth as part of a community trip on Sunday 7 August. Barmouth and Aberdyfi lifeboat crews joined the multi-agency search shortly after lunchtime and continued the search throughout the day and the following morning. Tragically the bodies of both boys were found days later at different locations along the coast.
As a result of this tragic incident Birmingham City Council approached the charity, along with other organisations*, to try and avoid a similar tragedy on the coast again this summer. A new educational partnership has been formed with the aim that every school pupil within the Birmingham area will received one water safety session before this year’s school Summer holidays. 570 school staff across Birmingham have already been trained in key water safety messages. Thanks to specialist water safety sessions provided by members of the water safety group over 100,000 kids and young people across the Birmingham area will have key safety skills to help keep themselves safe ahead of their trip to the coast this summer.
The initiative was formally launched at Holy Trinity Catholic College in Small Heath.
Jon Needham, Birmingham City Council’s schools’ safeguarding co-ordinator who initiated the partnership, explains its importance:
“One of the key priorities for the city is the safeguarding of its citizens. It is a startling fact that drowning in the UK causes more accidental fatalities annually than fire deaths in the home or cycling deaths on the road. So we fully endorse the SAFE Birmingham initiative and the fact that so many agencies are involved is a testament to the city’s commitment to improve the lives of children and their families.”
The RNLI is launching this new working partnership as the charity releases its annual statistics which saw the number of lifeboat launches across the Welsh coast rise in 2016.
Welsh RNLI volunteer crews saw an increase of 11% on lifeboats launches across the coast last year, rescuing nearly 13% more people compared to 2015. RNLI lifeboats across Wales launched 1,175 times, rescuing 1,162 people and saved 73 lives.
Mumbles RNLI volunteers were the busiest lifeboat station last year as the crews launched the lifeboats 83 times and rescued 95 people. The number of lives saved by Criccieth RNLI rocketed in 2016 as they saved 19 lives in 2016 compared to three lives the previous year – the majority of those were coastal walkers cut off by the tide.
Matt Crofts, RNLI Lifesaving Manager said: “Prevention is key for the RNLI – helping people by providing communities with the skills and knowledge to help keep themselves safe when they visit the coast. As a result of the new partnership with Birmingham City Council, key water safety experts can share these vital safety messages.
“We’d really like to see people paying more attention to safety messages and giving the water the heathy respect it deserves. While we will always answer the call for help, myself and everyone within the RNLI would like to see people staying safer at the coast.
“We’re calling on anyone visiting the coast to make safety a priority, whether that means wearing a lifejacket, checking their vessel before they go afloat, knowing they should call 999 and ask for the Coastguard in the event of an emergency, checking the tide times before they set out, or staying away from cliff edges and unstable coastal paths.”
Sarah Cook, education co-ordinator, Midlands, for the Canal and River Trust, said: “Canals and rivers are fantastic places to enjoy the great outdoors. They may look like inviting places for a dip on a hot summer’s day, but hidden dangers such as strong currents and hazardous sunken objects make them very unsafe places to swim. The Canal & River Trust teaches children how to spot potential hazards and avoid hidden dangers so that they can continue to safely enjoy all that our waterways have to offer. This partnership will allow us to reach even more children, and keep even more young lives safe.”