Swimmers at Bristol docks are risking their lives, say emergency services
HUNDREDS of people are risking their lives and wasting the emergency services' time by jumping into Bristol's docks.
Ambulances, fire crews, police and others say they are having their resources stretched by people jumping into Bristol's floating harbour during hot weather, or falling in after drinking too much alcohol.
Figures recorded by harbour- master Tony Nichols reveal 300 men, women and children had to be rescued or sparked emergency call-outs between March 28 last year and this.
With people enjoying two bank holidays in a row, the city council and emergency services have condemned such behaviour as "dangerous" and "stupid", not to mention both illegal and costly.
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The area in question spans from the docks and Cumberland Basin to Netham Lock and includes the Floating Harbour.
When someone jumps into the water or falls in under the influence of alcohol, a 999 call can result in the harbourmaster, fire brigade, police and ambulance service attending, costing thousands of pounds every year.
On average, it costs Bristol tax payers £220 every time 999 is dialled and an ambulance is requested. With most water incidents, more than one of the emergency services is called so the overall cost is likely to be nearer £1,000.
"The water in the floating harbour can be very dangerous and deceptive, especially on a hot, summer's day or late at night," warned a council spokeswoman. "The water is deep and cold, with lots of boats and ferries moving through the area, often in the dark.
"The most dangerous situation is unsupervised individuals who may have consumed alcohol who decide to enter the water. They will either get into difficulties or run the risk of being hit by a vessel."
Since January, the harbourmaster's team has attended 11 incidents, a figure expected to increase over the summer when there can be three or four call-outs per day, particularly at the weekends.
Thus far, the council has not prosecuted anyone but has been working with the police on the best methods and protocol for doing so in the future.
Inspector Keith Rundle, Avon and Somerset police's licensing officer, said: "Jumping into the water on the harbourside is stupid and very dangerous. We're asking people to think twice before they put their own lives and the lives of others at risk for the sake of a bit of fun."
Although Avon Fire and Rescue Service is not called to every person who jumps into the waterways, they were involved in 17 incidents between April 2010 and March 2011.
Of those 17, six needed emergency rescue and the others either got out themselves or were rescued by other people.
Fire service spokeswoman Stephanie Mounsey said: "While rivers and lakes may look very tempting during warm weather, the temperature of the water can still be extremely cold, meaning anyone falling in would quickly develop signs of hypothermia. Alcohol added to the effects of the cold water can affect your reactions, even if you are the strongest swimmer."
In the last few weeks, Great Western Ambulance Service (GWAS) has also attended seven water-related incidents in the Bristol area, compared to none during the same period last year.