We have 180 reservoirs across the North West, many in beautiful locations. The land around our reservoirs is a wonderful natural resource and we want to do everything possible to encourage people to visit and enjoy the health and wellbeing benefits of being out in the countryside.
But while reservoirs are wonderful places to visit for a picnic or walk, they are one of the worst possible places to take a swim. As well as dangerous hidden machinery under the surface and no lifeguard on duty, the water can be deceptively cold. If you jump in, the chances are you won't be able to get out. The water is so cold it can literally take your breath away and force your body into a spasm known as 'cold water shock'.
Despite our best efforts to raise awareness of the dangers, there are always a few who will take a chance. Sadly, in the last two years four people have lost their lives swimming in reservoirs in the North West alone.
As a responsible business, we want to do more to prevent these needless tragedies. That's why we've been working with bereaved families, water safety campaigners and representatives from the North West's fire and rescue services to identify what can be done to help reduce the number of drowning incidents in the region's reservoirs.
Together we've come up with a new pilot scheme which will help prevent loss of life. New throwlines have been installed at 20 locations around eight reservoirs across Greater Manchester and Lancashire as part of a special pilot. The throwlines can buy valuable time and help people keep their head above the water until firefighters arrive to help. Each throwline also has an information board with advice on how to help in an emergency and accurate location details for the fire and rescue services.
The scheme has received widespread media coverage and praise. Water safety campaigner Beckie Ramsay has been raising awareness of the dangers of open water swimming following the death of her son, Dylan, in 2011. She said: "I hope when people see the throwlines and the dedications written by the bereaved families it will make them think twice. If it stops just one youngster taking that chance it will be a success."
Mark Hutton, from Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, added: "We are really pleased to see a major utility provider deciding to install water safety boards and by doing so recognising just how important they can be in preventing loss of life, both in terms of the important safety messages they convey, and also their life-saving function in the event of an emergency."
If the throwline pilot scheme is a success we will consider rolling it out to other reservoir sites around the North West.