In 2019, Respect the Water enters its sixth year as the RNLI’s national drowning prevention campaign, forming a major part of our work to half accidental coastal deaths by 2024. Around 150 people lose their lives at the British and Irish coasts each year.
Many of these deaths can be avoided if people are more aware of the dangers at the coast and know what to do should they find themselves in danger in the water.
In the last two years the campaign has focused on delivering a single survival skill – floating. So far eleven people have said the Respect the Water float advice helped save their life.
The campaign aims to continue to raise awareness of the dangers at the coast, advocate the float survival skill and offer instruction on how to do it. We also hope people will share this lifesaving advice with friends and family.
Ultimately, we want people to know the recommended immediate action to take should they find themselves in trouble in cold water:
Fight your basic instinct to thrash about or swim hard when in trouble in cold water; instead stay calm, FLOAT on your back to help control your breathing and keep your airway clear.
Coastal fatality figures for 2014–2018 are: 153, 180, 156, 109 and 128.
• It’s encouraging for us at the charity to see the number of coastal fatalities fall below average for the second year running.
• It’s notable that men make up the majority of the fatalities at the coast every year; last year 115 male lives were lost – brothers, sons, partners, mates.
• We can’t get complacent, we can all take a role in getting behind coastal safety education, investing in initiatives and sharing survival skills to help save lives from drowning.
• The increase in fatalities in 2018 (128) compared to 2017 (109) could, in part, be due to the hot summer and increasing coastal visitors and participation levels in water-sports in 2018.
• Over half (55%) of the those who died at the coast in 2018 ended up in the water unexpectedly
• One drowning is one too many.
Respect the Water 2019
The RNLI Respect the Water campaign is calling on the public to remember one simple skill to help them survive in cold water: Float to Live
• Around half of those that die at the coast each year do not intend to enter the water, many people slip, trip or fall while walking, running, climbing or angling.
• British and Irish waters are cold enough year-round to trigger cold water shock, which can cause
uncontrollable gasping and panic, leading to breathing in water and drowning.
• Instinct will tell you to swim hard and fight the water. Instead, stay calm and FLOAT, to regain control of your breathing and keep your airway clear – only then should you try to swim to safety or call for help.
• Sharing the Float message could help save more lives.
• Eleven people have said the Float to Live advice has helped to save their life.
How to float:
o Lean back, extend your arms and legs
o If you need to, gently move your arms and legs to help you float
o Float until you can control your breathing
o Only then call for help or swim to safety
• Clothes can help with buoyancy – during the first moments in water, air is trapped between the layers. Moving less helps the air stay trapped, helping you float.
• Floating is not always something people are confident they can do, but most people can float.
• Practice floating in a safe environment like a swimming pool.
• If you see someone else in trouble in water at the coast, call 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard. Don’t go in after them.
• The average UK sea temperature is 12C – any temperature below 15C can trigger cold water shock.
• Our floating advice is for people experiencing a life-threatening reaction to panic and thrash about when in trouble in cold water – it doesn’t replace other important water safety advice which can all be found at www.respectthewater.com
• When visiting the beach or when swimming at the coast, our advice is to always choose a lifeguarded beach and swim between the red and yellow flags.
• The RNLI is a charity that relies on public support to carry out its lifesaving work.