RNLI and Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service join forces to launch training

Lifeboats News Release

RNLI community safety experts and north east firefighters will work together to deliver a community responder training scheme to help prevent people drowning around rivers and waterways across the region.

Group photo of RNLI lifeguards and crew with Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service in front of fire engine


Dave Irwin with RNLI staff and Tyne and Wear firefighters

The scheme is dedicated to the memory of Ross Irwin, a 22-year-old who accidentally drowned in the River Wear on his way home from a Christmas night out with his friends a year ago. Ross’ dad, Wearside firefighter Dave Irwin, is backing the scheme that will help local businesses understand the dangers cold water poses to their customers and provide them with the equipment to help rescue them safely.

Staff from pubs, clubs and restaurants, including security staff and waterside community members, are encouraged to sign up to the scheme and engage the public water safety. They will learn how to use a throw bag and what to do when people get into distress in or near the water. The potentially lifesaving throw bags, a 20m floating line used to pull a casualty to safety, can be supplied to venues at key locations across the region.

Nick Ayers, RNLI Community Safety Partner, and Ben Mitchell, Area Lifesaving Manager, will initially work with Tyne and Wear Firefighters who will then roll out delivery of the training to local businesses and communities.

Nick said: ‘Recent research by partners, the Royal Lifesaving Society UK, found that around a quarter of all adult drowning victims have alcohol in their bloodstream. These people are getting into difficulty in water that is not normally used for swimming or leisure activities and specialist help is often unavailable. By teaming up with Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service we hope to make a significant impact on the number of people losing their life in rivers and waterways when they’re walking home after enjoying a night with their friends.

‘We know that this is a risk to people in the region, either suffering from cold water shock when they didn’t intend to be in the water, getting caught up in fast flowing water, becoming injured or trapped by objects in the water or even them coming into contact with contaminated water. This training scheme aims to raise awareness of these dangers and ultimately help save a life. We encourage venues to sign up and make sure their customers are in safe hands this Christmas, just search “RNLI throw bag training” to find out more.’

Keith Carruthers Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, Area Manager, Community Safety said: ‘The loss of any life, is a tragedy for the family. This is even more so, when the tragedy could be avoided. With greater awareness and training by those who work in the hospitality industry and better understanding by those whose walk home takes them close to open water, I very much hope that we can make a positive impact on the number of people who lose their life through drowning. The sad loss of Dave’s son Ross was felt throughout TWFRS and I very much hope that our work with the RNLI, will ensure other families don’t suffer similar fates.’

The RNLI is appealing for venues, managers and staff at pubs, bars and restaurants to take part in the training. Sign up here today: www.rnli.org/pages/throw-bag-training.

The initiative supports the RNLI’s annual national drowning prevention campaign, Respect the Water. The campaign aims to raise awareness of the potential dangers of the water and take steps to minimise the risk of being in or near water. It is part of the charity’s drive to halve the number of accidental coastal deaths by 2024.

The RNLI is urging people to remember this basic safety information:

  • People who fall into cold water follow the same instinct, to gasp, thrash about and swim hard. But this is the worst thing to do – it increases chances of water entering your lungs and increases strain on your heart.

  • If you fall into cold water, fight your instinct to swim hard. Instead just float until you can regain control of your breathing before then trying to swim to safety or call for help. You’ll have a far better chance of staying alive.

  • If you see someone else in trouble in the water, fight the instinct to go in yourself. Call 999 or 112. If you are at the coast, ask for the coastguard. If you are inland by a river or waterway, ask for the police.

Notes to editors

Don’t Drink and Drown is a national campaign led by the Royal Lifesaving Society UK (RLSS UK) that warns drinkers to steer clear of walking by or entering water when under the influence of alcohol. The research indicates that around a quarter of all adult drowning victims have alcohol in their bloodstream: http://www.rlss.org.uk/about-us/campaigns/dont-drink-drown/#1502984355463-fd3f0650-628e.

Media contacts

  • RNLI Regional Media Manager, Nicola Quinn, 07810 658 072 or [email protected]

  • Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, Corporate Communications Manager, Karen Leech, 0191 444 1542 or [email protected].

Key facts about the RNLI

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

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Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or by email.