Respect the water ... and stay safe!
The school summer holidays have started and around Fife, youngsters are thinking of ways to spend their free time.
And with some sunshine (hopefully) just around the corner, days at the beach or exploring the countryside with pals could well be part of the holiday programme.
But with the water often a big attraction for young people on hot days, Kinghorn RNLI Lifeboat and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service have both released water safety campaigns, warning of the dangers going for a swim in the sea or in local lakes and quarries can pose.
For a dip in the sea or a swim in the lake can all too easily turn into a tragedy with hidden obstacles and currents often proving too much for even the strongest of swimmers.
That’s why Kinghorn RNLI Lifeboat station is appealing to people to ‘Respect the Water’ over the summer holidays.
It has recently launched its campaign with the aim of reducing drownings by half by 2024.
There are around 190 fatal accidents around the coast of the UK and Ireland each year.
The campaign focuses on raising awareness about the dangers of cold water and highlighting to people how these incidents happen; half of those who die on the coast did not intend to get wet in the first place.
A series of films are being shown in cinemas, as well as online challenges, and the recruitment of volunteer community safety officers.
Sylvia Hadley has recently taken on the role locally, based at the Kinghorn lifeboat station, and her job will involve covering much of the south Fife coastline.
She said: “We want everyone to enjoy the water, but also recognise its danger and never underestimate its power.
“It’s easier than you think to slip, fall or get into trouble in the water, so the campaign aims to encourage people to get better informed and get involved.
“Watch the film, take our online challenge, join us on social media and share Respect the Water with your mates.
“The more people who are aware of the risks, the better they can protect themselves and their friends around the water.
“But, if you do get into difficulty on the coast, call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.”
Kinghorn RNLI Lifeboat station plays a key role in the protection of the Fife and Lothian coastlines, along with its flank stations at Queensferry and Anstruther. This cover is supplemented by RNLI lifeguards and Coastguard rescue teams.
The three lifeboat stations provide year round cover, 24 hours a day. Over the summer months between June and September, the RNLI is also providing lifeguard cover on seven beaches in Scotland, six of which are in Fife – Aberdour (Silver Sands), Burntisland, Leven, Elie, St Andrews East Sands and West Sands beaches.
Using a lifeguarded beach during the summer months can help ensure your day at the beach is a safe one.
RNLI lifeguard supervisor Giordano Ceccarelli said: “We would always recommend that you swim at a lifeguarded beach.
“The red and yellow flags mark the boundary of the swim area which is monitored continuously by the lifeguards, so always stay between the flags when you’re in the water.”
That vital line and water rescue training from another of the region’s essential services was a stark reminder that danger lurks where seemingly innocent adventure lies.
Specialist fire crews from Glenrothes and Lochgelly stations, trained in the latest water and cliff rescue techniques respectfully, carried out mock recovery operations at Preston hill Quarry, Inverkeithing, the sight of two youth fatalities in recent years.
“It may seem innocent, harmless fun but sites like these present very real dangers both above, and below, the surface,” said Gary Dall, Scottish Fire And Rescue Service’s Fife group manager.
Some of those training were among the first to arrive at the quarry in August 2014, when 18-year-old Cameron Lancaster died after taking part in ‘tombstoning’.
The is the act of jumping from the quarry face often dozen’s of metres below,
“We’ve witnessed people falling in as well as those acts of excitement and dare, both of which have ended in tragedy.
“We would urge anyone to keep clear of quarry sites and other similar open water hazards,” added Mr Dall.
“It may seem safe from above, but there are as many dangers unseen below the waterline that can put people’s lives at risk in an instance.”
As the summer months continue and youngster’s look for something to do during the school holidays, Mr Dall admits his staff are facing a peak period with regards to potential emergencies.
“We just want people to be aware of the surroundings and the dangers, it’s about understanding the risks and being wise as well as being safe.
“That’s why training scenarios such as these are crucial to being able to respond quickly and effectively she we need to.”