FIREFIGHTERS will be visiting lakes and reservoirs across the borough this week to highlight the dangers of open water.
Crews from South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue are supporting Drowning Prevention Week, which is being spearheaded by The Royal Life Saving Society UK to raise awareness of water safety and drowning prevention.
The aim is to reduce the 700 drownings that occur across the UK and Ireland each year.
Firefighters will be visiting water sites across the county including Thrybergh Country Park, Rother Valley Country Park, Manvers Boating Lake, Treeton Dyke and Ulley Country Park.
They will be identifying potential risks and outlining safety measures that could be put in place at each location.
Station manager Tom Hirst, who has been organising the service’s activity, said he hoped the work being done would help make the county’s water sites safer.
“Water rescues are one of the many incident types we attend and, sadly, we’ve had a number of calls in recent years where people have drowned in open bodies of water,” he said.
“Even in hot weather, when people start to get attracted to lakes and reservoirs, water can be freezing cold and, as such, extremely dangerous.
“Our ambition is to try and stop drownings altogether but, of course, that will require a strong collective effort. That work starts this week.
“We’ve got a long list of sites, right across the county, that we’ll be visiting and risk assessing.
“We can then identify places that might benefit from things such as security fencing, floatation equipment and warning signs.”
Community safety teams will be visiting schools and youth groups to explain the dangers of playing in, or near, water.
Mr Hirst said: “Our advice for the public, especially with summer coming, is to just be extra careful around open water. Unless you’re part of an authorised open water swimming group, keep out of it.
“Even if it looks nice and appealing, you have no idea how cold it is, what lies beneath the water or indeed what water borne bacteria and diseases might be in the water itself.”
The fire service said open water might be much deeper and cold than it first appeared.
They also warned of hidden dangers such as diseases, bacteria, obstacles such as trollies, weeds, and hidden currents.
The Royal National Lifeboat Institution has recently launched its new Float To Live campaign, which encourages anyone who gets caught in open water to fight the urge to swim and focus on floating until help arrives.