Towns in Kent identified as water rescue incident hotspots are set to benefit from a new partnership between Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS) and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI).
The organisations are teaming up to provide targeted water safety education and promotion within the areas of Medway, Whitstable and Herne Bay, in a bid to reduce the number of people getting into trouble in the water there. These areas are all popular destinations and have had reports of people in trouble in the water.
KFRS water rescue team in training
In addition, Kent has been selected to be part of the RNLI’s Community Responder Programme (CRP), joining Devon and Somerset, London, Norfolk, and Tyne and Wear. The programme, which will initially focus on Maidstone with a view to extend into Medway in the near future, will see businesses and community groups based along the River Medway trained in basic water rescue.
Today (Monday, 23 April), at the start of NFCC Drowning Prevention and Water Safety Week, KFRS community safety officers will begin their CRP training with the RNLI, which will enable them to teach businesses and community groups skills which could one day help to save a life.
In the coming weeks KFRS will begin to approach businesses and groups in Maidstone, asking them to pledge to be trained and book a date for their free one-day course. Employees will be primarily taught how to keep themselves safe, how to try and prevent people entering the water, and also how to use rescue tools such as throw bags if people do enter the water. They’ll then receive a free throw bag to keep on their premises.
If well received by those taking part in the pilot, Kent Fire and Rescue Service has ambitions to open the initiative up to other areas of the county where water poses a risk in built up areas.
Ian Thomson, Assistant Director for Community Safety at KFRS, said: “We are really pleased to be working in partnership with the RNLI in a bid to bring water safety to forefront of people’s minds and try to reduce the number of water rescue incidents.
“We’re really looking forward engaging with groups in Maidstone initially, and teaching them the skills they’ll need to save a life if they ever see someone in trouble in the water near their premises. Whether you run a water-side pub, hairdressers, supermarket, warehouse, are a street pastor or part of a student group – if you’re prepared to do the training and want to help save lives, then you can get involved.
“We hope the people we train will never have to use the skills our teams teach them, but if they do, they’ll know what they need to do to help to save a life. If this initiative can help to save one person, then it’s done its job.”
Guy Addington, RNLI Community Safety Partner for the south east, said: “We’re delighted to be partnering with Kent Fire and Rescue Service on this initiative. We know that by working together with other organisations who are in the business of saving lives – and by finding members of our communities who want to join us, we have a real chance of reaching those at risk of drowning and to save their lives.”
Businesses in Maidstone interested in getting involved in the Community Responder Programme pilot scheme should get in touch via email.