Avon Fire & Rescue Service is raising awareness of the lifesaving river rescue cabinets located along Bath’s riverside to help prevent accidental drownings.

While firefighting has traditionally been at the forefront of the work by AF&RS, their role has increased to cover the core functions of preventing, protecting and responding.

River Rescue Cabinets are brightly coloured stations that are located at regular intervals along the waterways in Bath and Bristol. They contain a lifesaving throwline, which can be accessed in an emergency to assist somebody in difficulty in the water.

Stationed at Bath, watch manager Rich Wheeler said: “It goes without saying that we only encourage you to swim at supervised sites such as swimming pools. You should also avoid entering the water when under the influence of alcohol or drugs as this can greatly impact your ability to swim.”

Statistics from the Water Incident Database show that 40 per cent of people who have accidentally drowned had no intention of entering the water. Slips, trips and falls were often the cause of these accidents. However, if somebody ends up in the water, River Rescue Cabinets can be accessed to provide assistance whilst emergency crews are dispatched to the scene.

Rich added: “Whatever the circumstances, remember that if somebody ends up in the water, you should never enter the water after them, even if you are an experienced swimmer and confident in the water. Never underestimate the hidden dangers. Instead, use a River Rescue Cabinet to help them.”

To use the cabinet:

  • Call 999
  • Quote the location number on the cabinet. You will be given a four-digit code to open the cabinet and access the throwline inside.
  • Ensure you are a safe distance away from the water’s edge and take the throwline and unfasten the Velcro.
  • Wrap the end of the line around your less dominant hand, ensuring you have a secure and firm grip.
  • Using your dominant hand, throw the bag towards the person. Whilst you do this, a rescue crew will be travelling to your location.

If someone is in trouble in the water, the best way to help is by staying calm, staying on land, and remember to use Call, Tell, Throw:

  • Call 999 for the emergency services
  • Tell the struggling person to float to live, on their back in a starfish shape.
  • Throw them something that floats.

For more information, visit the dedicated water safety pages on AF&RS’ website: Water safety - Avon Fire and Rescue Service