New river rescue cabinets installed

Bath & North East Somerset Council has put in place 14 new river rescue cabinets along the River Avon in Bath.

The cabinets, installed in the stretch of river from Windsor Bridge to Pulteney Bridge, have been specially designed for the Council to protect the life buoys inside from vandalism and damage. The locked grey and orange cabinets containing the lifebuoys can be opened with a code provided by the Fire and Rescue Service Control room when callers dial 999. 

Councillor Martin Veal (Conservative, Bathavon North) Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Services, said: “We needed a new design for these cabinets to prevent vandalism, and we worked with our partners to come up with the new design.

“The cabinets have been extensively tested by volunteers and members of the River Safety Group, made up of representatives from Avon and Somerset Police, Avon Fire & Rescue Service, Bath & North East Somerset Council, the Environment Agency and the Canal and Rivers Trust. As a result of feedback from the testing, the instructions on the cabinets have been improved so that the lifebuoy can be accessed more easily and the fire and rescue service can respond more quickly.”

How to use:

If you see someone in the river, dial 999 and ask for the fire and rescue service. You will be given a code to open the river rescue cabinet. Once open, you can take out the lightweight yellow life buoy which has a long rope attached. Holding on to the rope, throw the life buoy to the person in the water. They need to hold tight to the buoy while the rope is used to pull them to the edge.

One of the benefits of the new design is that Avon Fire & Rescue Service will be immediately alerted of any incidents and will send help.

Avon Fire & Rescue Service Group Manager, Matt Hunt, said: “We welcome the introduction of the new tamper-proof lifebuoy cabinets which will provide emergency equipment for anyone who may need to help someone in the water. Callers will provide our Control Room with a location reference from the cabinet and will be given the code to access the rescue equipment. This will allow us to mobilise firefighters with specialist equipment to a confirmed location in order that we can help anyone in need.

“For a number of years we have been providing water safety advice and more recently have worked with students from City of Bath College. The advice includes not walking home close to the river, making sure someone knows where you are, drinking water in between alcoholic drinks and if you spot someone in the river, dial 999 immediately and ask for the fire and rescue service.”

One of the cabinets will be on display, with instructions as to how it works, at the One Stop Shop in Manvers Street, Bath, until September 18.

The cabinets are just one of the safety measures introduced by the River Safety Group to help make Bath a safer place. The group, formally established in 2014, and supported by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), has implemented a number of safety measures along the River Avon. 

Since 2011 Bath & North East Somerset Council has spent in the region of £500,000 on river safety; it plans to spend £150,000 on the river corridor in 2015/16 and will be seeking partner contributions to increase that figure.

Students from Bath City College have been working with the River Safety Group to encourage young people to think about their own safety with their #gotyaback campaign. The campaign has been shared on social media and via a specially created film which you can find on their website gotyaback.org. 

Safety messages:

The important things to remember about the river are:

  • Rivers, canals and open water can present a real danger if you’ve had a drink. The water can be extremely cold, and added to the effects of alcohol, can dramatically affect the reactions of even the strongest swimmer.
  • Plan a route at the start of the night. If your walk home takes you past water could you take an alternative route or get a taxi?
  • To help you stay more aware, drink a glass of water between each alcoholic drink.

What to do if somebody is in trouble:

  • Think, do not put yourself in danger. Do not enter the water or jump in.
  • Shout for help, ring 999 and request the fire and rescue service
  • If it’s safe to do so, try and reach the person with a stick/pole/scarf or any other object. Crouch or lie down to avoid being pulled into the water.
  • Throw designated rescue equipment or rope, if available, to pull the person to the bank. Otherwise throw in something that will float as this will help keep the person afloat until assistance arrives.