Dismore speaks up for river safety

At today’s London Assembly plenary Andrew Dismore AM successfully proposed a motion to support the RNLI’s efforts to reduce deaths by drowning in the Thames. (video here)

Mr Dismore said:

‘It may come as a surprise to some, to learn that significantly more people drown in our river each year than are killed when cycling on our roads.

‘Some drownings will be suicides or self-harm ‘calls for help’, others will be accidents – and of course we can all remember the Marchioness disaster.

‘Tower is the RNLI’s busiest lifeboat station with 540 calls last year- 1/15th of all their calls nationwide with an impressive launch time 90 seconds, with their full-time crews.

‘If they can reach someone in the river within 5 minutes, they have a good chance of saving them; 70% of their calls are for people in the river from bridges or embankments.

‘Services with a role in search and rescue include the Metropolitan Police Service, London Fire Brigade, the Port of London Authority, as well as the RNLI

‘One simple thing that can be done to help speed up emergency attendance, is for people to use 999 to call the Coastguard, who lead on maritime Search and Rescue and mobilise the lifeboats.

‘Encouraging calls to the coastguard can be helped by ensuring that lifebuoy boxes on bridges and embankments display the standardised ‘999 call the coastguard’ signage, which TfL are doing, but not all riparian boroughs have so far.

‘Indeed, between Hays Galleria and City Hall this morning I counted 3 lifebuoy boxes, installed by Southwark, which is good, but none of them had the signs telling people to call the coastguard on 999.

‘In January this year, all river walls and Thames bridges owned by Transport for London (TfL) were inspected for the appropriate distribution of life buoys.  TfL identified that 42 new installations were required, with a further 22 requiring updated information panels. This was determined using guidance provided by the RNLI. These are scheduled to be installed by the end of this month.

‘A weekly inspection of all TfL equipment is undertaken, with any missing life buoys replaced within 24 hours and damage to the housing repaired within seven days.

‘On piers operated by London River Services, safety equipment is checked daily.

‘Training is also important, for all those who work on and near the river, for example bar staff in pubs on the embankments, security staff, council workers, to know to call the coastguard.

‘We should also bear in mind the substantial development along the riverbank, for example the wide scale development of the East London Thames North Bank. Encouragement is needed for safe and responsible development that ensures water safety is inherent in these newly built environments so as to ensure safe access and egress and safe use of the river by their residents: this ought to be secured by planning conditions.

‘The Thames Water Safety Forum have been working together for two years, first to carry-out an extensive combined multi-agency Community Water Safety Risk Assessment (IRMP) for the river, then to jointly understand the hazards, risks, issues and challenges from this to form a strategic group to deliver interventions to reduce the drowning death toll.

‘They are currently a couple months away from finalising and publishing the strategy, and will need our help and that of the Mayor to publicise and implement it, which is why the motion calls on the Mayor to do all he can to support the efforts of the Thames River Safety Forum to reduce deaths from drowning, to encourage TfL and the riparian boroughs to do the same, and to take a personal interest in improving outcomes.’