Be beach safe this weekend – look out for your family!

Lifeboats News Release

The air might be heating up this weekend but the water is still cold! That is the warning from the RNLI in Scotland, ahead of a (predicted) hot weekend that could see Scottish families, flocking to the coast to cool down.

Girvan's volunteer crew in 2019

RNLI/Nigel Millard

Girvan's volunteer crew in 2019

Whilst the air temperature may be due to shoot up this weekend, the water in Scotland’s popular inland and coastal beauty spots remains, potentially lethally, cold. The RNLI is reminding families to look out for one and other and to remember the potentially deadly effects of cold water shock.

Anything below 15°C is defined as cold water and can seriously affect your breathing and movement. Average UK and Ireland sea temperatures are just 12°C all year round. Some of Scotland’s most popular spots, such as Loch Ness, remain even colder - even in the summer.

The sudden cooling of the skin by cold water causes an involuntary gasp for breath. Breathing rates can change uncontrollably, sometimes increasing as much as tenfold. All these responses contribute to a feeling of panic, increasing the chance of inhaling water directly into the lungs. This can all happen very quickly: it only takes half a pint of sea water to enter the lungs for a fully-grown man to start drowning. You could die if you don't get medical care immediately.

Michael Avril, the RNLI’s Water Safety Lead in Scotland, says: “Each year, in Scotland, we see tragic incidences of lives being lost to cold water shock. When we have the rare opportunity to enjoy a really hot weekend it’s easy to forget that the water is still very cold. However, we would remind the public that your split second decision to take the plunge can be a lethal one. Cold water shock can take effect immediately and could cost you your life.

“If you are at the coast or around any other body of water this weekend, please look out for each other, avoid suddenly immersing yourself in cold water and if you do find yourself suddenly in the water, float to live. Take a minute. The initial effects of cold water pass in less than a minute so don’t try to swim straight away. Relax and float on your back to catch your breath. Try to get hold of something that will help you float.

Keep calm then call for help or swim for safety if you’re able.”

The RNLI also has the following advice for those considering a trip to the coast, you should stay in familiar surroundings, follow Scottish Government advice around social distancing and local lockdowns, don’t put yourself, your family and emergency services at risk by taking risks or assuming it ‘won’t happen to you’. If you do see someone at risk call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.

The message from the RNLI in Scotland is clear, a hot weekend does not mean an instantly safer coast and water temperatures remain dangerously cold.

The charity will be running a lifeguard service on five of the nation’s beaches this weekend: St Andrews East Sands, Elie, Aberdour Silver Sands, Burntisland and Coldingham Bay. Where possible you should visit a lifeguarded beach and swim between the flags.


Interviews: Michael Avril, RNLI Water Safety Lead is available for phone or Skype/FaceTime interview.

RNLI media contacts

For more information/interview requests please contact:

Gemma McDonald, Regional Media Manager (Scotland), 07826 900639 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.

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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.