(Originally published on Quays News, December 12, 2017)
FESTIVE party-goers in Manchester are being urged to stay safe around the city’s waterways this holiday season.
‘Don’t Drink and Drown’ is a campaign led by the Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS), and it is hoped it will help save lives over this Christmas and New Year.
In the past five years, 39 people have drowned in Manchester’s waterways. Six had alcohol in their system. In the UK last year, 20 percent of all adult accidental drowning victims had alcohol in their bloodstream.
The Canal and River Trust, Manchester Water Safety Forum and Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue have all pledged their support for the campaign, which sees banners being put up along the city’s towpaths to help spread awareness of the dangers of walking home after a drink.
Don’t Drink and Drown launched in 2014 as a national campaign following a string of tragic drownings of young people. The national drive occurs in both September and December, when the University year stars again and when revellers indulge in the festive nightlife.
Aaron Dhandra is one of the RLSS operational staff working with local volunteers, partners and agencies to deliver the ‘Don’t Drink and Drown’ campaign. He said: “If someone falls into the cold water, it’s the shock temperature that affects their body. It has a big effect of your muscles and ability to swim, and combined with alcohol, this produces a deadly cocktail.”
“We have done some work with bars, pubs and clubs to raise awareness of these dangers. We have beer mats, t shirts, posters and glow in the dark wristbands. It’s all to try and increase people seeing the messages. As well as the banners we hope it will drill our message home.”
Lots of the city’s most popular nightlife spots, such as Deansgate Locks and Canal Street, are along waterways and so it can be tempting to use these as shortcuts to get across the city.
David Baldacchino, Manchester and Pennine Waterways manager, looks after 300km of the North West’s waterways. He said: “We’ve got such fantastic nightlife around the canals at this time of year, however we do get concerned about people getting home safely. We’re not here to say don’t enjoy yourself, but make sure you’re sensible and get home safely. It’s a message we push right through the year.”
The fire service was called out 29 times last year to people who needed rescuing from the water. Many find difficulty in the water in summer months when trying to cool down, however it’s over Winter with freezing temperatures when falling in can be most dangerous.
Kenny Fletcher-Beer, from the prevention department of the Fire Service, offered advice for those who come into trouble along the region’s waterways.
“If you’ve had a few drinks, think twice about whether you want to actually use a tow path, it can be slippery especially when it has been snowing, or when it’s icy. If you get in the water it will be difficult for you to get out and recover yourself. Go home with a friend.”
“If you have a friend in trouble, don’t jump in after them. Your muscles will go into shock and you will find yourself in difficulty very quickly. Phone 999 as quickly as possible giving accurate information as to where you are so we can get to you as quickly as possible. Try and throw something in. Up and down the canal there are rings and throw bags that you can throw in, anything you can find really that they can grab on to, for instance an umbrella. Don’t jump in yourself.
“If you’ve got a friend who you’re worried about, make sure they get home safely, either take them to their door or put them in a taxi, rather than walk home alone in the dark by the river. The best present you could give them this Christmas is for them to get home safe.”
More information about the campaign is available at www.rlss.org.uk