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RNLI warns: practise FLOAT survival skill to prevent more male lives being lost

Lifeguards News Release

Today, the RNLI charity is sending men a stark reminder this holiday season: Be prepared, practise the skill of FLOATING to avoid being a coastal fatality – floating can be the difference between life and death if you find yourself in trouble in the water.

Last year, 90% of those that died at the coast were male – a worrying trend that continues. Already this summer during the continued hot weather a number of men have died both inland and around the coast.

But the skill of floating is helping to save lives. Already 12 people have said the Float to Live advice from the charity’s Respect the Water campaign helped them survive potential drowning. The advice is:

If you find yourself in trouble in cold water, fight your instinct to swim hard and panic, which can lead to breathing in water and drowning.

Instead FLOAT on your back until you have regained control of your breathing.

Just last month a 24-year-old man, dangerously close to drowning, was pulled from the River Thames with help from the crew at RNLI Tower lifeboat station. Thanks to remembering the RNLI’s float advice, the exhausted man was able to stay alive in the water for 25 minutes until he was rescued.

RNLI Helm Steve Doherty, from Tower lifeboat station says:

‘The man had decided to go for a swim in the Thames, but quickly found himself overcome by the river’s very strong currents and suffering from cold water shock. He realised swimming in this tidal river was a bad idea but couldn’t get back to the shore and started to panic. He told us he thought he was going to drown but then remembered the RNLI float advice he’d seen on YouTube, so he made himself float until help arrived, and he thinks that this saved him. From my experience if you get into trouble in the Thames, you’d usually only have a matter of minutes to get out before your chance of survival reduces significantly.’

Last year, almost 30% of coastal deaths in the UK took place in July and August alone. In the same months RNLI volunteer crews and lifeguards rescued over 26,000 people around the UK and Ireland, preventing many more potential fatalities.

This summer, Ant Middleton, RNLI ambassador, adventurer, author and SAS Who Dares Wins front man, is supporting the Respect the Water campaign.

Through a short film specially recorded for the charity’s campaign, Ant is reminding the public of the dangers of the water and the need to prepare with the core float survival skill.

Ross Macleod, RNLI Respect the Water Manager, says:

‘Tragically too many men are still losing their lives at the coast each year. We also know that over half of the 128 people that died at the coast in 2018 ended up in the water unexpectedly. In fact, 34% of the fatalities happened while people were simply out walking and running.

‘Many of the deaths every year are preventable if men take a little more time to prepare themselves with the knowledge and skills to stay safe in and around the water, so we’re really pleased that Ant Middleton is helping us get this lifesaving message out to those who are at risk. Knowing and practising the simple skill of floating can be the difference between life and death.’

What to do to keep safe at the coast

  • The natural reaction on immersion in cold water 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.
  • 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 towards them or tell them to FLOAT on their back until help arrives.
    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.

For more advice on how to float visit RespectTheWater.com. On social media search #FloatToLive #RespectTheWater.

The Respect the Water campaign will run throughout the summer with advertising across cinema, outdoor posters, radio, online, and catch-up TV channels.

Notes to Editors

  • The fatality figures quoted are for water-related fatalities from accidents and natural causes in UK tidal waters. The figures for 2014–2018 are: 153, 180, 156,109 and 128. These are from records from the National Water Safety Forum’s Water Incident Database (WAID). 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)
  • Video package (including Ant Middleton’s film) available on request.

Media contacts

For more information, or for interview requests, contact Lucy Parker, RNLI Public Relations Manager, on 01202 336508 / Lucy_Parker@RNLI.org.uk or the RNLI Press Office on 01202 336789 / pressoffice@rnli.org.uk

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 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.

Learn more about the RNLI

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 or by email.

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