While Stirling is home to some of Scotland’s most stunning lochs, rivers and reservoirs, they hold many hidden dangers that can prove fatal.
In Scotland, the number of drownings is on the rise. A report from the National Water Safety Forum shows there were 105 water-related fatalities in 2021, compared to 99 in 2020 and 96 in 2019.
Many of these tragedies are due to everyday occurrences such as a trip or fall, or underestimating the effect of swimming in cold open water that can cause ‘cold water shock’.
According to the Royal Life Saving Society UK, around 44% of drownings in the UK happen between May and August.
To make young people aware of the dangers, and ensure families enjoy water safely over the summer months, Stirling Council schools will be sharing additional learning materials with pupils during DPW.
Water safety and survival swimming are also key elements of Stirling Council’s Primary School Swimming Programme. Delivered by experienced swim teachers, the information and lifesaving skills are continually researched and updated.
The school swimming certification has also been recently updated with four increasingly challenging levels, with each certificate including water safety reminders such as ‘Float to Live’.
Vital we all raise awareness
Convener of Stirling Council’s Environment and Housing Committee, Cllr Jen Preston said: “Sadly, this is the time of year when we hear so many tragic stories of people drowning, including children, causing heartache for families and friends.
“During the summer holidays when more families will be visiting inland water areas across Stirling, it’s vital we all raise awareness of the hidden dangers.
“There is fantastic educational work taking place in our schools about how pupils can be safe around open water and what to do should the worst happen, but I would encourage parents and carers to reinforce this message at home to minimise the risks.”
To stay safe in and around Stirling’s open waters, follow the Water Safety Code developed by Water Safety Scotland.
Very real dangers
Area Commander Mark Bryce is the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s Local Senior Office for Stirling, Clackmannanshire and Fife
Commander Bryce said: “We want people to have an enjoyable time during the warmer months, but safety is our top priority, and it is extremely important that we remind the public about staying safe near water.
“We must educate the public about the very real dangers of our coastal and inland waters and the risks involved in swimming or playing in water.
“Anyone, of any skill and experience level can find themselves in difficulty and we would encourage everyone to educate themselves and those around them to stay safe in and around water.”
Enjoy the water safely
Kenny Auld, Head of Visitor Services at Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority, said: “Being close to or going into the water is very appealing during these warmer summer months, whether that’s just a picnic with friends on the loch shores, a dip to cool down or enjoying activities like swimming or paddle boarding.
“It is important though to understand the risks and to know how to enjoy the water safely. Even when it’s hot, the water in lochs is very cold and can cause cold water shock, even in experienced swimmers. Going into a loch is very different to going into the sea, where the water gradually gets deeper. Lochs often get deep very quickly with sudden, steep drops close to the shore.
“We have rolled out a programme of enhanced water safety measures ahead of this summer and continue to work closely with partners such as local authorities and emergency services to get the messages out there on how to keep yourself safe in or around our waters.”
Drowning Prevention Week
Drowning Prevention Week (DPW) which runs from 18 to 25 June is one of the largest summer water safety campaign across the UK and Ireland.
The campaign is organised by the Royal Life Saving Society UK and is designed to raise awareness of water safety ahead of a summer outdoors.
Pictured at the riverside in Callander are children from Callander Primary School; Scott Mason, Stirling Council Fisheries Officer (front, first from right); Officers from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service; Councillor Jen Preston (back, third from left); Kenny Auld from Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority (back, first from right).
Water Safety Scotland - https://www.watersafetyscotland.org.uk/information/water-safety-code/
Drowning Prevention Week (DPW) - https://www.rlss.org.uk/pages/category/drowning-prevention-week-campaign