Man talk: One conversation could save a mate from drowning

Lifeguards News Release

New research1 from the RNLI reveals nearly all young men aged 16-35 (98%) would share advice with their male friends, but less than half (41%) have offered advice about safety issues.

Meanwhile, coastal fatality figures2 released by the RNLI reveal of the 109 people who died at the UK coast in 2017, 91% of them were men.

This August the charity’s Respect the Water campaign is encouraging young men to share two survival skills with friends that could save their lives:

  • If you see someone struggling in the water at the coast, call 999 or 112 immediately and ask for the Coastguard. Don’t go in after them – you may get into trouble yourself.
  • If you are in trouble in cold water, fight your instinct to swim hard or thrash about, as this could lead to breathing in water and drowning. Instead, relax and FLOAT on your back, until you have regained control of your breathing.

Ross Macleod, RNLI Respect the Water Manager, says:

‘August is a notoriously busy month on the coast, which draws groups of friends to our amazing beaches to relax and let off steam during the holidays. But sadly this also means more young men getting into difficulty in the water or tragically losing their lives.

‘Our research shows 70% of young men aged 16-35 admit to having been in a dangerous or scary situation alongside their male friends, with 35% of those revealing potentially dangerous water was a factor. So we’re calling on guys to be aware of the risks at the coast, and to look out for their mates by remembering and sharing key survival skills.

‘Stereotyping would say men don’t talk openly with their mates, but our survey suggests nearly all men share advice with their friends. With less than half revealing they offer advice about safety issues, we believe it’s important to urge more men to chat to their mates about what to do in a dangerous situation at the coast, to save more lives. A simple conversation may be all it takes to truly look out for your mates.’

Over the past 5 years, 98 people have died at the UK coast during the month of August, making it one of the deadliest months for coastal fatalities, joint only with July.

If you do see a friend in trouble in the water at the coast, fight your instinctive reaction to go in after them, as this puts you at risk of getting in trouble yourself. The best way to help is to call 999 or 112 immediately and ask for the Coastguard. You can try to find something that floats and throw it to them, or tell them to FLOAT on their back until help arrives.

If you find yourself in trouble in cold water your natural reaction can be to panic and thrash around, which increases the chances of breathing in water and drowning. The best thing to do in this situation is FLOAT on your back, keeping your airway clear until you can control your breathing. You can then plan your next move to safety.

Visit and see the RNLI’s key steps to floating, designed to help give people the confidence to be able to FLOAT if they find themselves in trouble in cold water.

Anyone planning a trip to the beach is advised by the RNLI to choose a lifeguarded beach and swim between the red and yellow flags, which is the area most closely monitored by the lifeguards.

In 2017 the Respect the Water FLOAT advice helped saved the lives of seven people3. The 2018 campaign will run throughout the summer with advertising across cinema, outdoor posters, radio, online, and catch-up TV channels. The RNLI is asking people to visit where they will find more information on floating. On social media search #RespectTheWater #FloatToLive.

1 The research for the RNLI was carried out online by Opinion Matters between 13 / 07 / 2018 to 17 / 07 / 2018 amongst a panel resulting in 1,001 male respondents aged 16-35. All research conducted adheres to the MRS Codes of Conduct (2010) in the UK and ICC/ESOMAR World Research Guidelines. Opinion Matters is registered with the Information Commissioner's Office and is fully compliant with the Data Protection Act (1998).

2 Records from the National Water Safety Forum’s Water Incident Database (WAID) 2013–2017. RNLI has analysed the data using GIS software to plot and analyse incidents before inclusion in a specific coastal dataset (accident and natural causes only).

3 RNLI records of people who spoke to the charity and said the 2017 Respect the Water ‘float’ advice helped save their life when in a dangerous situation in the water. Some people wish to remain anonymous.

Notes to Editors

  • RNLI spokespeople are available for interview. Please contact RNLI Public Relations on the numbers below to arrange interviews.
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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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