Published 6 July 2015

Duty Officer, Duncan Thompson from Monmouthshire County Council talks Drowning Prevention Week.

Having spoken to various people at RLSS UK HQ about Drowning Prevention Week I was given encouragement, ideas and was pointed in the right direction. Along the way I was asked if I would write a blog about what I was doing…

Rewind just over a year. I was working as a Duty Officer and RLSS UK Trainer Assessor in a leisure centre and tried as a one-man band promoting Drowning Prevention Week in 2014. Just like many other people up and down the country I wanted to make a difference and have some fun along the way!

I struggled trying to do everything myself and soon learnt I needed to ask, delegate and use the team of people around me.

In 2014, I believe I made a difference in the centre where I worked. I got all swimming lessons to cover a drowning prevention theme, handed out loads of leaflets, had a colouring in competition, a and a treasure hunt.

As a team were able to hand out resources and lessons plans to the local primary schools two – three weeks before Drowning Prevention Week and we were all gobsmack at the response from some of the schools. I was asked to judge creative writing competitions and read children’s poetry that was all based around water safety.

However, my successes weren’t without setbacks.

I learnt a lot in 2014. I had some highs and lows but had already started planning for something bigger and better in 2015

Rewind six months. January 2015 was a devastating month for me losing a good friend and work colleague who also worked as a Duty Officer, RLSS UK Trainer Assessor and one of the main sounding boards for bouncing ideas around. This spurred me on to have bigger and better goals as I knew this is what he would do too.

At the time I didn’t know what to call my goals until the IQL UK awards. The penny dropped when listening to a great talk by professor Greg Whyte. I had set myself ‘audacious goals’ – one of my goals was and still is to make a difference.

Like many people up and down the country that work or volunteer for the RLSS UK, they know that they have made a difference. I get satisfaction from knowing and seeing that I am making a difference, so this year that is what I have done to prevent drowning.

I get a huge personal satisfaction from running various RLSS UK courses, seeing people develop, learn new skills and most importantly learn life skills. Justin Scarr from RLSS Australia summed it up well at the IQL UK awards: “lifeguards learn valuable life skills, leadership skills, communication, conflict resolution that can be used in all walks of life.” Altogether all the people within the RLSS UK community make a difference every day – we prevent drownings and teach people invaluable life skills, including how perform CPR and use an AED. All the skills make a difference in our communities and make a difference whilst having some fun.

Having seen the benefit first hand of being able to use an AED, I have raised funds and I am currently in the process of getting an AED placed in my local town centre so the general public can access it at any time of the day. The importance of AEDs was highlighted by an inspirational talk by Mark King of the Oliver King Foundation at the IQL UK Awards raising awareness on SADS (sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome – please check out ). The Oliver King Foundation is a great cause with an aim to make a real difference to not only raise awareness but to install defibrillators into all schools, sport centres and other public buildings and to ensure that young people over the age of 14 have the opportunity to have an ECG to check that their hearts are healthy. With this part completed my next goal was Drowning Prevention Week 2015.

At the beginning of September 2014, I started to have discussion with my Centre Manager. I wanted to make it bigger and better than 2014! With my manager seeing the positive effect it had on both customers and staff he encouraged me to go bigger and better! We started having discussions with our Media Department, Swimming Development Officer and various other managers at other centres.

I had an ambitious goal of getting a Drowning Prevention Week 2015 pack into every primary and secondary school in the whole of Monmouthshire. I wanted:

  • Swimming lessons taught to schools pupils and the general public that week to have a water safety element to it
  • Staff to be engaged
  • The general public to be made aware of water safety

I wanted it to be huge!

Quick sums were worked out:

  • Around 220 primary school children from six different primary schools come through our leisure centre every week
  • 550 children having swimming lessons
  • Around 1,000 secondary school pupils

My final figure was: over 5000 people across four leisure centres in Monmouthshire will initially receive drowning prevention messages. That does not include individuals who will receive the message with family, friends and the local media.

We got the local fire fighters involved and soon was putting the finishing touches to a press release and inviting the press to attend a pre-publicity photo shoot with three weeks to go before the start of Drowning Prevention Week 2015. We wanted to get the maximum exposure in the local press.

The end result

Four leisure centres, four secondary schools, 34 primary schools and countless family members.

We emailed each leisure centre with the plan for the week, every school got emails and packs were ordered for all the schools and centres. Journalists were approached, staff asked for ideas, lesson plans printed, swimming teachers briefed, IQL UK award ceremony attended (a worthwhile day out) it was all coming together…

My centre in Chepstow had managed to get support from the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service and SARA (Seven Area Rescue Service) who helped with a charity car wash and demonstrate water rescues. They also helped with water safety talks to children and performed adults perform CPR first aid choking classes. They reinforced water safety message and showed a real community effort in delivering a great week. We managed to get publicity on front page of the Monmouthshire county council website and articles in some of the local papers thus sending the message to an even greater audience.

Now with the week over and it having been a huge success locally I am starting to plot my next adventurous goal.

I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone that helped make Drowning Prevention Week such a success in Monmouthsire, especially all in Monmouthshire Leisure, South Wales Fire and Rescue Service and SARA (Seven Area Rescue Service) and in memory of Neil Allmark who spurred me on to bigger and better goals.

My tips: plan ahead dates for 2016 are 18 – 26 June.

Don’t expect someone else to do it, do it yourself. Plan big, don’t stop for minor setbacks, ask for help advice and guidance and most importantly smile and have fun #DPW2016 its going to be huge!!