River Safety: A National Initiative

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Cath Brown, the Chair of the SCP River Safety Forum, represented Bath at a conference to discuss river safety initiatives across the UK. Here’s her brief summary of the valuable discussions shared:

Bath is not alone as a city where fatalities have tragically occurred through young people falling into the river. Durham and York have experienced similar incidents in recent years. These cities share more similarities; they all have historical areas with a large number of licensed premises closely located to fast flowing rivers. They also have large university communities. It would seem to make sense then for all of these cities to share their experiences, learnings and ideas. So that’s what we did earlier this year.

Representatives from local authorities, the emergency services and universities met up in Durham for a one day conference on river safety. I travelled to Durham by train and as we pulled into the main station I was struck by the similarities to Bath; here was a beautifully, historic small city surrounded by a river with riverside pathways and lots of shops, pubs and clubs.

The following day I met colleagues from Durham City Council and York City Council and as we feedback to the delegates, it felt like we could have done a single presentation that would have represented all of our experiences. A repeating theme was that all of the fatal incidents had taken place at night and mainly involved young people who had been enjoying a night out in the city. We all discussed the positive measures that had taken place in light of the tragedies- the physical measures which had included additional fencing and extra life saving equipment and then the educational work to raise awareness and change behaviour. Other colleagues were particularly interested in our unique river rescue cabinets and how they prevented vandalism of life saving equipment. In the afternoon we took a walk along the river in Durham and I got a real sense of the challenge to both protect the public but also make the river accessible and a pleasant open space. For example, the Council had installed new signage to highlight the safer paths which would be floodlit at night so that the public could make the right choices when walking home.

As I ran for my train home at the end of a very productive day, I felt reassured that all of the cities were working towards the same aim and that we in Bath are part of a bigger, national community who are trying to help the public understand the risks of living near to a river.