Youngsters warned of fatal risks of jumping into rivers

Young people in County Durham are to be made aware of the potentially fatal risks of jumping into rivers this summer through the return of a successful campaign.

As the warmer months draw in, The Safe Durham Partnership is once again rolling out its ‘Dying to be Cool’ campaign, which aims to educate ten to sixteen year olds on the dangers of jumping into open water without acclimatising.

As in 2016 – its first year, the campaign is being led by Durham County Council and spearheaded by county mum Fiona Gosling, whose 14 year old son Cameron died from ‘cold water shock’ after jumping into the River Wear while playing with friends near Bishop Auckland in July 2015.

The campaign has to date delivered important safety messages to in excess of 10,000 children in person and has coincided with a reduction in water related fatalities and injuries.

Dying to be Cool could also be set to be rolled out beyond County Durham for the first time this summer.

In 2017, the campaign will once again aim to get messages to young people, their parents, guardians or carers and the wider public through social media. As last year, water safety sessions will be held for schoolchildren, to coincide with National Drowning Awareness Week.

Already this year, Dying to be Cool assemblies featuring Mrs Gosling and representatives from County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service have been delivered to more than 6,600 schoolchildren.

The council is also exploring new ways to bring the campaign messages to young people, which could see Dying to be Cool delivered by partners beyond County Durham.

Mrs Gosling said: “It is so important that young people and their parents know all about the dangers of jumping into rivers, lakes and reservoirs, especially as the warmer weather approaches.

“It really could mean the difference between a teenager coming home from a day out with friends or not.

“I’m looking forward to continuing the work that we’ve already done and really want to make sure that any other families do not have to have their lives turned upside down the way we have since Cameron died.”

Cold water shock is the body’s short term involuntary response to being suddenly immersed in cold water which can result in difficulty breathing and cardiac arrest.

The Safe Durham Partnership includes the county council, Durham Constabulary, the fire and rescue service and other partner agencies.

The 2016 campaign saw assemblies delivered to 3,360 students, meaning more than 10,000 children have now been given the important safety advice first hand.

A further 160 took part in the water safety sessions at Stanhope open air pool, where the activity will again be held next month, while a campaign video has now reached one million people on Facebook alone.

Dying to be Cool has been promoted nationally by the likes of the Local Government Association as well as County Durham Olympic silver medal winning rower Jess Eddie.

The campaign has contributed to a reduction in water related fatalities and injuries since it was launched, according to Safe Durham Partnership figures (see notes to editors.)

In 2015/16, there were nine near misses, five injuries and two fatalities across County Durham. In 2016/17, following the launch of the campaign, there were just four near misses, two injuries and one fatality.

The campaign has been endorsed nationally by the RNLI, Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents and the Chief Fire Officers Association. It has also won national recognition having helped the council reach the final of the MJ Achievement Awards 2017 for its water safety work in communities.

The work of Dying to be Cool will this year be highlighted to members of the National Water Safety Forum.

Kevin Lough, the council’s occupational health and safety manager and chair of its Open Water Safety Group, said: “Dying to be Cool has been a success to date and the figures show it has coincided with a reduction in loss of life and injuries.

“For more than 10,000 children to have attended the assemblies is also a notable achievement.

“We are not complacent however – we want to reach as many people as possible and are currently looking at a number of new ways of spreading the word about water safety and cold water shock, including working with partners who wish to take the campaign to neighbouring areas and different approaches to getting the messages across to young

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