We all know the importance of keeping hydrated. If you work in the police however, grabbing a quick drink of water can be difficult when on duty. By the time you do that next call has to be answered.
Consequently, the effects of dehydration start to occur; namely fatigue, headaches and irritability. All this makes officers and staff member less productive when at work.
Inspector Jez Kumar from Lincolnshire Police observed this among his colleagues and decided to address the problem.
“I could see that some officers were clearly lethargic” he comments.
“This can usually manifest in their behaviours, but is also evident from their thought processes including the quality of their decision making.”
“Although some officers and staff already had water bottles, and used them regularly, quite a few people had told me that they knew they were not drinking enough but also did not have the time to keep going to the water cooler.”
Following some research on hydration, as well as some anecdotal evidence with colleagues, Inspector Kumar discovered that many of us simply don’t realise how much we should be drinking daily.
The European Food Safety Authority recommends a total water intake of 2.0 litres for men and 1.6 litres for women per day via food and drink. According to the National Hydration Council, approximately 73% of our brain is water – meaning that even mild dehydration can affect cognitive abilities. This obviously creates problems when working in an already stressful environment such as policing.
To try and improve drinking habits, the Take-a-Sip campaign was launched in October with the help of funding from Police Care UK. This project provided officers and staff across Lincolnshire police with free clear BPA free 800ml water-bottles that they could keep at their desks. The bottles each had a spout attached, encouraging people to drink a small amount frequently throughout the day (hence the “Take a Sip” title). Prior to the start of the campaign, a survey asking about daily drinking habits relating to water and other liquids (tea, coffee, juice etc) was issued and completed by almost 1,200 people. The majority said that pure water took up no more than 20% of their daily fluid intake.
A conscious decision was also made to run the project in the winter months as opposed to the summer as our body’s response is very different.
“In the cooler months our thirst response often isn’t triggered” said Inspector Kumar.
“This means that we don’t drink because our bodies simply don’t remind us to do so. We all know to drink more water in the summer but are less conscious of doing so in autumn or winter.”
The campaign ran for four months from October to 2018 to January 2019 inclusive. In February 2019 a second survey was launched to capture data on whether drinking habits had changed and if so, how. The results in the two surveys indicated that there had been a “substantial increase” in the number of people drinking more than 500ml of fluids a day. It also made people more aware and conscious of the importance of drinking regularly when out on patrol.
“The Take a Sip campaign seems to have gone extremely well and people have been very appreciative in their comments to me” concludes Inspector Kumar, “it was nice to be able to issue the water bottle without asking for anything in return.”
“Furthermore, from an environmental point-of-view, it has also been very beneficial as we have a reduction in the number of plastic bottles and cups being used. Before the campaign, staff were throwing them away constantly.”
“Drinking regularly is so important but something most of us forget to do when we are occupied with work. This project is just one strand of a much wider programme aimed at improving the overall wellbeing of Lincolnshire Police and staff.”