RNLI issues water safety advice during extreme heat warning in the South East

Lifeboats News Release

With hot temperatures forecast for South East England this week, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is urging people to stay safe in and around water.

People on a busy beach in summer at Boscombe, Bournemouth. Lifeguard flags on the shore.

RNLI/Nathan Williams

Busy beach in summer at Boscombe, Bournemouth. Lifeguard red and yellow flags on the shore

As air temperatures are expected to rise throughout the week, reaching mid-30 degrees Celsius on Friday and Saturday in the South East and London, the RNLI is reminding people about the dangers of cold water shock, which can happen in water temperatures below 15 degrees Celsius and have a serious effect on someone’s body.

There were 277 deaths in the UK from accidental drownings last year across inland and coastal locations, and 40% of people who lost their lives had no intention of entering the water in the first place, with slips, trips, and falls, being cut off by the tide, or swept in by waves being the most significant problems. Additionally, 62% of accidental fatalities happened at inland waters. *

The RNLI is urging people to ‘Float to Live’ if they get into trouble in the water. This means leaning back and spreading your arms and legs to stay afloat, controlling your breathing, and then calling for help or swimming to safety. In a coastal emergency, call 999 or 112 for the Coastguard or the fire and rescue service if you are inland.

Gabbi Batchelor, RNLI Water Safety Education Manager in the South East, said: ‘With another heatwave forecast for this weekend, we want to remind everyone to stay safe when visiting the coast or looking to cool off in the Thames.

‘With so many people enjoying the water this summer, it is important that we all know the risks. Even with the temperatures soaring, the fact is that the water is still cold.

‘The sea temperature around the UK and Ireland rarely gets above 15 degrees Celsius, and rivers such as the Thames are colder even in the summer, so the risk of cold water shock significantly increases as air temperatures rise. The effects of cold water shock are serious. It causes you to breathe in the water, weakens your muscles, and immediately affects your heart.

‘If you get into trouble in the water, Float to Live. Lean back, using your arms and legs to stay afloat. Control your breathing, then call for help or swim to safety. In an emergency, call 999 or 112 for the Coastguard or the fire and rescue service if you are inland.’

The RNLI is also reminding people heading to the coast to visit a lifeguarded beach and swim between the red and yellow flags, and to ensure they take the necessary precautions for any coastal activities.

Londoners are reminded that the river Thames can be dangerously unstable, with high tides and unseen currents and reeds beneath the surface that could pull people under in seconds. As a result, swimming is prohibited in many areas of the capital and people are urged to swim in controlled environments and lifeguarded areas.

Gabbi said: ‘To help stay safe, we encourage people to visit a lifeguarded beach and swim between the red and yellow flags, which mark the safest stretch of water and the area our lifeguards patrol.

‘If in London, understand the risks of going to the Thames to cool off as river environments can be extremely unpredictable, and they can pose many hidden dangers. Don’t jump or dive in, as unseen hazards can endanger even the strongest swimmers.

‘Record numbers are also taking to the water on craft such as paddleboards and kayaks, many for the first time. It is important always to remember to wear a lifejacket or buoyancy aid and to take a means of calling for help.’

For further information on the water safety campaign visit: RNLI.org/FloatUK2022

A full list of RNLI lifeguarded beaches can be found here: https://rnli.org/find-my-nearest/lifeguarded-beaches

Open water swimming advice can be found here.

Notes to editors

· Gabbi Bachelor, RNLI Water Safety Education Manager in the South East, is available for interview

· Images and Float to Live video available to download here: https://source.rnli.org.uk/share/8979F278-2C29-4DA2-8E25796C914F2AED/

· * Water Incident Database (WAID), maintained by the National Water Safety Forum. To view and download the WAID 2021 report visit: https://www.nationalwatersafety.org.uk/waid

RNLI media contacts

For more information, please contact Julie Rainey, RNLI South East Regional Media Manager, on 07827 358256 or email [email protected] or Paul Dunt, RNLI South East Regional Media Officer, on 0778 5296252 or email [email protected] Alternatively, please call the RNLI Press Office on 01202 336 789 or email [email protected].

RNLI online

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

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.

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.