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Swimming in open water can kill

MESSAGE: Wakefield Together visited Horbury Academy to warn pupils about swimming in open water.
MESSAGE: Wakefield Together visited Horbury Academy to warn pupils about swimming in open water.

A youth safety project is highlighting the dangers of swimming in open water.

PCSOs and youth workers have increased their visits to open water sites ahead of the school holidays, in particular to Horbury Lagoon where people have drowned in the past.

The partnership scheme is known as ‘Wakefield Together’. Partners Neighbourhood Policing Team, Youth Work Team, the Fire Service and the Royal Life Saving Society have developed an action plan around open water safety.

Work included the provision of and training in the use of throw lines for water casualty recovery.

Youth workers, PCSOs and a representative from the Royal Life Saving Society have also visited Horbury Academy to deliver an assembly to the whole school. A hard-hitting film and true stories aim to make children think about the consequences of unsupervised open water swimming.

Leaders of the project say the water can seem very inviting during hot weather but people need to take into account “cold water shock” which can debilitate even the strongest swimmers leading to drowning. And 80 per cent of drowning victims are male.

Miriam Oakley, Horbury Academy headteacher, said “We’re grateful to have had the opportunity to work alongside Wakefield Together to highlight dangers and raise awareness of water safety among our students and their families.”

Wakefield Together has also met children and families who are using the water for activities including fishing, picnics, boating and swimming.

Each open water site has a unique code and signs. For example Horbury Lagoon’s is WNW 01. The code can be given to emergency services over the phone. It relates to a map reference, access point and hazards.

Inspector Helen Brear, of Wakefield North West Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: “We have been really pleased to be part of this important project to spread a water safety message to our young people. Tragically, we have seen people lose their lives in Horbury Lagoon and are conscious of the need to do everything we can to make people aware of just how dangerous it can be to swim in open water sites.”

Jodie Matthews, from Wakefield Council’s Youth Work Team, hopes the shared skills may help to save a life.