The RNLI urges people to know how to FLOAT as campaign hits Northern Ireland

Lifeboats News Release

As the RNLI’s 2019 national drowning prevention campaign Respect the Water launches today, the charity is urging the public to take action and follow this potentially lifesaving advice if they find themselves in trouble in cold water:

Float to Live


Float to Live
  • Fight your instinct to swim hard or thrash about – this can lead to breathing in water and drowning

  • Instead, relax and FLOAT on your back, until you have regained control of your breathing

Now in its sixth year, and with figures showing that around 150 people lose their lives around the Irish and UK coastline each year, the 2019 Respect the Water campaign will focus on delivering a single survival skill – floating. So far 11 people have said the Respect the Water float advice helped save their life. The campaign will continue to raise awareness of the dangers at the coast, advocate the float survival skill and offer instruction on how to do it. It is the RNLI’s hope that people will share this lifesaving advice with friends and family.

Last year, RNLI lifeboats launched 283 times from their 10 lifeboat stations in Northern Ireland with their volunteer crews bringing 370 people to safety. Of that figure, five people were lives saved. The RNLI’s lifeguards who seasonally patrol 11 beaches along the Causeway Coast and in County Down, responded to 283 incidents and came to the aid of 252 people in 2018.

Speaking as the RNLI launched this year’s Respect the Water campaign, Rogan Wheeldon , RNLI Area Lifesaving Manager said: ‘No one should have to lose someone they love to drowning. Many of the tragic deaths at the coast can be avoided if people understand the risks and prepare themselves by practising the Float technique. We’ve been contacted by people who say they recalled the Float safety message while in serious trouble in the water, and that following the RNLI’s advice helped save their life. But we can’t get complacent, we all have a role in getting behind coastal safety education, investing in initiatives and sharing survival skills to help save lives from drowning.’

Rogan said a worrying trend shows men make up most of the fatalities at the coast every year: ‘Many of them did not plan on entering the water, with slips, trips and falls catching them unaware while out running or walking. Knowing what to do if you fall into cold water can be the difference between life and death.

‘The instinctive human reaction when you fall into cold water can cause panic and gasping for breath, increasing the chances of breathing in water. Although it’s counter intuitive, the best immediate course of action is to fight your instinct and float on your back.’

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

For those planning to go into the water, the best way to enjoy it safely is to choose a lifeguarded beach and swim between the red and yellow flags – the area most closely monitored by the lifeguards. And if you see someone else in danger in the water at the coast, fight your instinct to go in and try to rescue them yourself, instead call 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard.’

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


RNLI media contacts

For more information please telephone Nuala McAloon, Regional Media Officer on 00353 876483547 or or Niamh Stephenson, Regional Media Manager on 00353 871254124 or

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 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 by email.