11 December 2009
GHS Warns: Don’t Mix Whisky and Water This Christmas
With the festive season in full swing, the Glasgow Humane Society (GHS) lifeboat team is urging revellers to stay well clear of the city’s icy waterways.
The GHS unit is on heightened alert at this time of year as office parties and Christmas nights out hit the town. However, the river accident prevention experts are sending out a clear message this winter: do not go anywhere near the water, especially if you have been drinking.
George Parsonage, popularly dubbed ‘Riverman’, has been on lifeboat patrol along Glasgow’s waterways for 42 years with the Humane Society.
Having recovered more than 1,500 bodies during his tenure, he has seen first-hand the dangers of mixing seasonal celebrations with the freezing rivers.
George says: “Have fun over the holidays, but please remember that alcohol and the cold waters of Glasgow is a deadly mix”.
The Humane Society warns steep river banks are often crumbling and liable to give way. Equally, people must be extra vigilant for ice on bridges and walkways at this time of year as there is a very real danger of slipping or falling in.
“Tragically, I’ve seen it happen before,” adds George. “We really don’t want any lives ruined this year – your own, or the lives of loved ones – because of one moment of silliness or over-confidence near water.
“Currents are fierce and the temperature in rivers such as the Clyde is always remarkably low. You would have just three or four minutes before early signs of hypothermia set in.
“Combine this with the rubbish and weeds tangling around your ankles and swimming becomes frighteningly difficult. Trust me – you really do not want to take the chance.”
Children are also being reminded not to climb fences or play on railings near the water. Never attempt to retrieve footballs or any other items that may have been lost to the fast flowing rivers.
Tony Coia, an officer at the GHS, advises people to immediately dial 999 if they spot someone in the water.
“The first thing to do is call the emergency service” Coia says.
“Next identify one of the orange-coloured lifebelts located at set points along the river’s banks, remove it from its hook, and throw it with one hand – like a discus – into the water.
“You should aim for it to land as near to the casualty as possible without injuring them. Ask the person to hang on to the ring-shaped lifebelt and kick with their legs toward the nearest exit point.
“If the lifebelt has a rope, you could gently pull them in toward safety. But never under any circumstances enter the water yourself. We do not want to be recovering two casualties.”
Unfortunately, lifebelts and their ropes are regularly stolen or vandalised. Each belt costs £50 to replace and they are all too often not in place when desperately needed in an emergency.
The GHS has recovered upward of 600 belts in the past year alone.
Tony adds, “It is concerning that anyone would damage such important equipment. We would like to remind people that a stolen lifebelt can mean a stolen life”.
George Parsonage’s father Ben served the Humane Society for 61 years before him. Between them, the Parsonages have dedicated more than 100 years of their lives to rescue and recovery work from the GHS base beside St Andrew’s bridge in Glasgow Green.
“As my father used to tell me, ‘The rivers are a wonderful friend to Glasgow’,” George says. “’But they can be an unforgiving enemy if we don’t treat them with respect’.”