The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) with the support of Her Majesty’s (HM) Coastguard have launched a water safety campaign as a new study reveals around 35M people plan to visit the UK coast this summer.
In a survey commissioned by the RNLI, 85% of the UK adult population (aged 16-64) expect to visit the UK coast or use the beach or sea between now and the end of September, this is up from 75% this time last year. 42% expect to go three times or more.
Over the Platinum Jubilee Bank Holiday weekend and half-term holidays, the RNLI with the support of HM Coastguard are launching a water safety campaign, urging everyone to remember that if you get into trouble in the water;
Float to Live.
- Lean Back, gently using your arms and legs to stay afloat,
- Control your breathing: then call for help or swim to safety.
- Call for Help: call 999 or 112 for the Coastguard.
In 2021 there were 277 deaths in the UK from accidental drownings, across inland and coastal locations, an increase of 23 from the previous year.
40% of people who died had no intention of entering the water, such as those walking, with causes including slips, trips and falls, being cut off by the tide, or swept in by waves.
Using the Float to Live technique has helped save the lives of many people, including
Dave Henderson, 52, from Ilminster and Brian Harding, 73 from Chard. They were on a fishing trip on the River Axe, near Axmouth, when they got into trouble in the water.
They had been out on the boat for some time, it was a sunny, calm evening and they were heading back to shore. Suddenly, a freak wave hit their boat and it capsized, flinging them into the water just as it was getting dark. Once in the water, Dave, who has a heart condition, could feel the current from the river taking him out to sea. He knew he couldn’t swim long enough or hard enough to make it back to shore.
He recalled seeing an RNLI poster in his local yacht club which explained that if you get into difficulty in the water, you should Float to Live: lean back, using your arms and legs to stay afloat. Control your breathing, then call for help or swim to safety.
Using this advice, he lay on his back and floated whilst he waited for help to arrive.
Luckily for Dave and Brian, a fisherman who was taking photos of the sunset saw what happened and raised the alarm by calling 999 and asking for the Coastguard.
Dave said: ‘I was in the water for 20 or 30 minutes. I’ve never been in the water like that so I was concentrating on what I needed to do before my brain started shutting down, because I knew I was at risk of hyperthermia. At my local yacht club there is an RNLI poster with Float to Live advice on it, I walk by it on a daily basis so it really reinforced the message, I knew to lay back in the water whilst we waited for help.
‘I feel exceedingly lucky to be alive. There were so many things that were important to our rescue, from the onlooker on the beach who knew what to do and called 999 and asked for Coastguard, to the speed the RNLI were able to launch. I’m also very grateful I saw that RNLI poster so many times that I instinctively knew to Float to Live.’
Lyme Regis RNLI Lifeboat Station was tasked to the shout and crew members quickly arrived on the scene. They managed to locate and rescue Dave and Brian who have made a full recovery since the incident and can credit floating on their back whilst they waited for help as saving their lives.
Harry Yarbo, Senior RNLI Lifeguard said: ‘We want everyone to enjoy their trip but we also want to make sure people stay safe and know what to do in an emergency. It is important that anyone visiting the coast understands the risks of the environment. It can be very unpredictable, particularly during early summer when the risk of cold water shock significantly increases, as air temperatures warm but water temperatures remain dangerously cold.
‘If you get into trouble in the water, Float to Live: lean back, using your arms and legs to stay afloat. Control your breathing, then call for help or swim to safety. In a coastal emergency, call 999 or 112 for the Coastguard.’
The RNLI is also reminding people to visit a lifeguarded beach and swim between the red and yellow flags this summer.
A full list of RNLI lifeguarded beaches can be found here: rnli.org/find-my-nearest/lifeguarded-beaches