There are hundreds of accidental water deaths every year in the UK. Shockingly, around half of the people who drowned had no intention of entering the water.
More people drown from ending up in the water when running or walking (87 deaths in 2019) than those who drown when swimming (44 deaths in 2019)*.
How to stay safe in and around water
Follow and share our top tips to keep yourself (and others) safe around the coast and rivers, lakes, and canals.
- Never leave children unattended near water.
- Know your location, so if you need to dial 999 you know exactly where you are if you or someone else gets into trouble. We recommend you use the What3Words app to help locate yourself and others.
- Be aware of hidden dangers. Water might look calm on the surface but strong undercurrents can pull even the strongest of swimmers under. Underwater plants can also be a drowning hazard if you get stuck.
- Never walk or play on frozen water.
- Be careful of swimming in cold water, as it could affect your ability to swim.
- Try to only swim where there are lifeguards present. Swimming in quarries, lakes, reservoirs, and canals is really dangerous.
- Pay attention to warning signs and learn what the different coloured flags at the beach mean.
- Beware of rip currents. If you’re ever caught in one, swim parallel to the shore.
- If you find yourself in trouble, try to move to a floating position. Lie on your back and spread out your arms and legs, tilt your head up and out of the water and shout for help. If you can, try and raise your arm to make people aware.
- Stay out of the water if you have been drinking alcohol.
Everyone who falls into cold water has the same instinct. To swim hard. But cold water shock can make them gasp uncontrollably and breathe in water. Then they drown.
But if they just float until the cold water shock has passed, then they'll have a far better chance of staying alive.
Fight your instinct - float to live.
The majority of incidents the RNLI beach lifeguards attend involve rip currents. Rip currents are also the major cause of accidental drowning on beaches all across the world.
With an extensive coastline around Devon and Somerset, you should be prepared before entering the sea.
What to do if someone falls into the water
Never go into the water to try to save someone. You could experience cold water shock which will leave you unable to help, even if you’re a strong swimmer.
- Call 999 immediately. If you’re near the coast, ask for a coastguard. If you are inland, ask for the fire, and ambulance services.
- Tell the emergency services where you are. You can use your phone, but if you don’t have one or you can’t access location tools then try looking for landmarks or signs that could help the services find you. We recommend downloading the What3Words app to help with pinpointing your location.
- If the person can swim, shout “swim to me!” The water can be disorientating, but this could help give them a focus. Keep instructions loud, clear and consistent.
- Look for lifebelts or throw bags you can use. Read about how to use a throwline.
- If there isn’t any lifesaving equipment, look for other things that could help them stay afloat, such as a ball. You can even use a scarf or long stick to help pull someone in. If you do this, lie on the ground so your entire body is safely on the edge and reach out with your arm. Don’t stand up or lean over the water, as you might get pulled in.
This video was made by St John Ambulance.
If you've done a primary survey and established that the casualty is unresponsive but breathing normally, they should be placed into the recovery position to help maintain the airway.
To do this, kneel next to them on the floor.
- Remove their glasses and any bulky objects in their pockets but do not search their pockets for small items.
- Make sure both of the casualty's legs are straight.
- Take the arm nearest to you and place it at a right angle with the palm facing upwards.
- Take the other arm and bring it across the chest. Place the back of their hand against their check nearest to you and hold it there.
- With your other hand, lift the far knee up until their foot is flat on the floor.
- Whilst keeping the casualty's hand pressed against their cheek, pull the far leg to carefully roll the casualty towards you and onto their side.
- Once you have done this, adjust the top leg so it is at a right angle.
- Tilt the casualty's head right back so that the airway remains open. If needed, adjust the hand on the cheek to help keep the airway open.
- If it has not already been done, call 999 or 112 for emergency help.
- Keep checking their level of response until help arrives.
So remember; if the casualty stops breathing at any time call 999 or 112 and prepare to give them CPR.
And that's how you place someone in the recovery position.