QR codes on life buoy cases to pinpoint location in a water emergency

Wardens at the riverside

The Royal Borough’s Community Wardens are launching a new water safety initiative that could save precious minutes for emergency responders if someone gets into trouble in open water. 

The wardens have created unique QR codes which are being placed in the casing of life buoys alongside the River Thames and around some lakes (with landowner permission). 

The codes contain pinpoint information to make it easier for services to find the location in an emergency. They also make it easier to report any missing or vandalised equipment. 

Community Warden Peter Murkin said: “We have been going out and checking all the buoys to make sure they are all intact and ready to be lifesavers in an emergency.

“We have been to some quite remote locations during our checks, some well away from roads, and it became obvious we needed to help people know where they physically were in case they needed to tell the emergency services about someone in trouble in the water.

“We are now placing the QR codes alongside emergency service advice so if there is a terrible situation, relaying information about where you are does not hinder getting help.”

Senior Community Warden Elliott Bain added: “The buoys are not toys or items to be damaged just for fun. Leave them in their cases so they are ready to be the lifesavers they can be.”

The Community Wardens have also been issued with throw lines in the kit they carry daily, and have had training to use them, to assist in a water incident they come across during their patrols, which include riverside locations.

In addition, they have been removing temptations that might encourage to enter the water, such as rope swings and abandoned kayaks, as well as examining the life buoys to make sure they are ready for an emergency.

Councillor Simon Werner, the council leader and cabinet member for community partnerships, public protection, and Maidenhead, said: “This is a great initiative by our Community Wardens who know our area well.

“They have realised there could be an issue in an emergency with getting assistance quickly and have come up with a practical solution.

“The advice is not to go into open bodies of water, even on the hottest days, but if you witness an emergency then you can get the location information to responders more quickly. In emergency situations, those precious seconds or minutes might well save a life.”

The Community Safety Partnership identified water safety among its immediate priorities. The Community Wardens, Thames Valley Police, the Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service, and the Environment Agency, are working together to raise awareness among residents of the risks of entering in open water, which include cold water shock, hidden depths and currents, and submerged objects.

The Royal Borough is leading an awareness campaign, Be Water Aware this Summer, which coincides with the start of the school summer holidays, when there is the temptation to cool off in open water and families go on holiday to UK beaches and destinations abroad.

Last year, there were more water rescues in the Royal Borough than in any other Berkshire local authority. The Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service made a total of 36 water rescues, an increase of 50 percent from the previous two years. In the last five years, 148 people have been rescued from Berkshire’s waterways and sadly some have lost their lives.

What is cold water shock?

Cold water shock is the biggest killer of people who jump or swim, in open bodies of water. On average the temperature is below 15 degrees Celsius even in the height of summer. As a comparison, a bath is between 32 and 40 degrees, and swimming pools are between 25-28 degrees Celsius.

Cold water shock triggers a gasping response when a person jumps into cold water which can then be inhaled into the lungs. Alternatively, body heat is moved from arms and legs to protect internal organs, leading to the inability to stay afloat.