Respect the Water campaign targets accidental drowning along the coast

Lifeboats News Release

The RNLI today launches its annual national drowning prevention campaign, Respect the Water, and this year the charity is warning the public to watch out for key dangers that can catch people out in or near water.

The campaign which will run throughout the summer months aims to highlight the risk of accidental drowning when people are near the coastline while encouraging safer behaviour both in and around the water. The campaign is primarily aimed at males aged between 16 and 39 but the same advice is relevant for anyone visiting the coast.

Coastal fatality figures released by the RNLI show 26 people have lost their lives around the coast of Northern Ireland in the past five years. There was a number of near-fatal incidents, with the RNLI’s lifeboat crews in Northern Ireland saving eight lives and rescuing 269 people in 2015.

Between 2011 and 2014, men accounted for nearly two thirds (65%) of the region’s coastal deaths.

A surprising trend is that many of the coastal deaths each year are people who never planned to enter the water. Of the 26 deaths over the five year period, 42% did not intend to get wet – people taking part in activities such as coastal walking or running, or commercial activity. In fact, slips and falls while walking and running were the biggest contributing factor, accounting for nearly one-fifth (19%) of the fatalities.

Other activities commonly contributing to coastal deaths around the region over the past five years are general leisure use of the water, including swimming and jumping in, which together accounted for 23% (six) of the deaths, while people in the water but whose activity was unknown accounted for 19% (five).

The RNLI is warning of the key dangers that can lead to accidental drowning - cold water, unexpected entry into the water, and rip currents and waves.

The campaign will reinforce the key message ‘Treat water with respect, not everyone can be saved’ on a range of channels throughout the Summer. These include a poster showing dramatic imagery of the hand of a drowning person reaching for a lifebuoy and hard-hitting cinema advertisements showing the unpredictability of the water and the dangers of cold water shock.

Speaking as Respect the Water was launched, Rogan Wheeldon, RNLI Community Incident Reduction Manager said: ‘We want everyone to enjoy the water. However, it is powerful and unpredictable and people need to treat it with respect. Each year RNLI lifeboat crews and lifeguards rescue hundreds of people around the coasts of Northern Ireland but sadly, not everyone can be saved. The real tragedy is that many of these deaths could have been prevented.’

‘Cold water is a real killer, People often don’t realise how cold our waters can be – even in summer months the temperature rarely exceeds 12 degrees, which is cold enough to trigger cold water shock. If you enter the water suddenly at that temperature, you’ll start gasping uncontrollably, which can draw water into your lungs and cause drowning. The coldness also numbs you, leaving you helpless – unable to swim or shout for help.

‘The fact that over half of the people who die around our coast each year never planned to enter the water serves as a warning to us all to stay away from cliff edges, particularly where there is slippery, unstable, unstable or uneven ground; stick to marked paths and keep an eye on the water – watch out for unexpected waves which can catch you out and sweep you into the water.

‘If you’re planning to enter the water be aware that, even if it looks calm on the surface, there can be strong rip currents beneath the surface, which can quickly drag you out to sea. The sea is powerful and can catch out even the strongest and most experienced swimmers.’

The charity is asking people to visit where they will find information on coastal hazards, how to keep themselves safe, and what to do should they someone else end up in trouble in the water. On social media search #RepectTheWater.


Notes to Editor
• Provisional coastal fatality data taken from the National Water Safety Forum’s Water Incident Database (WAID) 2011-2015. The figures quoted are for water-related fatalities from accidents and natural causes in UK tidal waters. The fatality figures for Northern Ireland for 2011-2015 are 6, 2, 7, 8 and 3.
• Please see links to the cinema advertisements:
Breathe test:
Unexpected entry:
Cold water:
• The RNLI’s Community Incident Reduction Manager is available for interview.

RNLI media contacts
For more information please contact Nuala McAloon RNLI Press Officer Ireland on 0876483547 or email or Niamh Stephenson RNLI Public Relations Manager Ireland on 0871254124 or 018900460 or email

Key facts about the RNLI

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and, in a normal year, more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

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For more information please visit the RNLI website or Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. News releases, videos and photos are available on the News Centre.

Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or by email.