Don’t Drink and Drown – Campaign focuses on dangers of River Severn after drinking

The dangers of drinking and going near the River Severn in Shrewsbury are being highlighted in a campaign to Respect the water.

Respect The Water Campaign in Shrewsbury
Constable Kev Roberts, The Alb licensee James Hitchin, Helen Ball, of Shrewsbury Town Council and James Bainbridge, Station Officer for Prevention at Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service at the launch of the Don’t Drink and Drown campaign in Shrewsbury.

People who drink too much alcohol and walk home alongside the River Severn are being made aware of the dangers with the launch of a Don’t Drink and Drown and “Respect the Water” campaign.

The campaign brings together Shrewsbury publicans, club owners, firefighters, police and councils to get the lifesaving message home to mainly young revellers out celebrating in the run up to Christmas and the New Year.

The “Respect the Water” and Don’t Drink and Drown campaign are promoted by the Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) and the Royal Lifesaving Society after students tragically drowned. A quarter of all adult drowning victims have alcohol in their bloodstream.

In a bid to highlight the campaign hundreds of warning messages have been distributed on posters, glasses, bar mats and towels in pubs and clubs to raise awareness about the danger.

Pub managers, who are part of the Pub Watch scheme joined Team Shrewsbury, made up of fire, police, councils and other agencies to improve river safety. They have bought four rescue boxes containing eight life jackets and throw lines which are due to be sited in the main river loop in Shrewsbury town centre.

Inspector Ed Hancox, of West Mercia Police, said river safety was a priority and he praised the RNLI campaign to deliver important safety messages. He urged people to be midful:

“We are well aware of recent tragic events in the River Severn in Shrewsbury. We urge anyone going out to enjoy themselves in Shrewsbury over Christmas and the New Year to remain mindful of river safety. Look after each other and respect the water at all times.”

Jim Hitchin, chairman of Pubwatch and licensee of The Alb in Shrewsbury, said they were passionate about the campaign to raise awareness so that people did not die needlessly after a night out.

Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service has trained pub and nightclub doormen to carry out water rescues using buoyancy aids and throw lines. They also continue to train street pastors in water rescues when they ensure drunken revellers get home safely after pubs and clubs close for the night.

Firefighters from the brigade’s Swiftwater Rescue Team are holding another session for street pastors at the Frankwell Quay in Shrewsbury on Sunday, December 3, when the church going volunteers will learn how to throw buoyancy aids and 20 metre lines from the safety of the towpath.

Street pastors have been praised for a large fall in the numbers of drownings which reached 29 between 2004 and 2011 in the “Shrewsbury loop” section of the river which runs through the medieval town centre. A training session given to the volunteers will teach them how to throw buoyancy aids and 20 metre lines from the safety of the towpath.

Although the River Severn is usually enjoyed for its beauty, it has also brought tragedy. Seven people have died in the river since 2010 and more than 50 rescues carried out by emergency services.