Christmas is a time when many people are keen to let their hair down, have a roaring good time at the office party, and enjoy a few drinks – or maybe more than a few.

The Safe Durham Partnership is, however, reminding festive revellers to bear one or two things in mind to ensure they stay safe while having fun.

People are being urged not to walk home along rivers and to look out for their mates.

One major concern at this time of year is the risk of accidental drowning. Statistics from the Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS) show that from 2012 to 2016 there were 366 accidental drownings in Britain that involved alcohol or drugs. That works out at an average of 73 a year.

Eight accidental drownings in County Durham over the same four-year period involved drugs or alcohol – 38% of the total number of accidental drownings the county saw.

Accidental drownings are far from being just a summer occurrence caused by people leaping into open water to cool off. 18 such drownings were reported nationally in December last year.

Though there have been no water-related fatalities so far in 2017 in County Durham and Darlington, the Safe Durham Partnership is still keen to stress the ways in which people can stay safe.

The SDP has issued the following advice to revellers:

  • Do not walk home near water
  • Look after friends and make sure they get home safely
  • Do not enter water, especially if you have been drinking
  • Remember that alcohol seriously impairs your ability to get yourself out of trouble

Durham County Council’s occupational health and safety manager Kevin Lough – who is also the chair of the Open Water Safety Group – said, “Christmas and New Year are, of course, times when people love to go out and enjoy themselves and we hope that everyone has a great time.”

“And while we don’t want to be killjoys, we would just ask people not to walk home along rivers if they’ve had one too many as they’ll be at increased risk of falling in – and will also find it harder to get out.”

“The same applies if someone you’re out with has had too much to drink – please make sure they get home safely.”

“Finally, this might seem obvious, but please don’t go into a river under any circumstances – they are extremely dangerous and unforgiving environments.”

Andrew Allison, community safety officer at County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service, said, “At this time of year, the conditions around open water tend to get worse, so river banks become slippy and paths can have icy patches.”

“This can make it tricky for people under the influence of alcohol, walking their dogs, jogging or doing other activities anywhere near open water.”

“We ask everyone to take extra care around water, particularly when it is dark.”

Andrew Allison and Kevin Lough
Andrew Allison and Kevin Lough by Durham’s River Wear

“Why not try some new routes that don’t go so close to water and think about buddying up so that you are not alone if something did go wrong?”

“You could also carry a torch and wear some bright clothing so that you can see and easily be seen.”

“It is also good to let someone know your expected route and how long you expect to be out and about to help them raise the alarm if something goes wrong.”

Though there have been no water-related fatalities in County Durham this year, since January the fire service has attended water-related incidents in which two people have been injured and eight have had to be rescued.


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