Be water aware

Drowning is amongst the leading causes of accidental death in the UK. We want to make people safer by making them aware of the risks and dangers when around water, what to do if they fall into water and how to help someone who is in trouble in water.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and National Water Safety Forum have provided us with some facts:

  • On average around 400 people accidentally die from drowning each year in the UK and Ireland.

  • 46% of these people just happened to be near water and had no intention of entering the water.

  • Over 80% of those who drown accidentally are male.

  • 62% of accidental drownings happen in inland water.

  • Only 30% of parents surveyed said their children were ‘very confident’ that they know how to stay safe in and around water (March 2022).

  • Approximately 65% of people surveyed have never received any formal training or education regarding water safety. 

Dangers - open water

  • The water may look calm on the surface but there can be strong undercurrents that could pull even a strong swimmer under the water.

  • The water may feel warm on the surface but just a few feet below it can be icy cold.  The cold water can affect the stamina and strength of swimmers.

What to do in an emergency


  • Are you in trouble?

  • Can you swim - swim towards me?

  • Can you stand up?

  • Can you float on your back?


  • Use an object like sticks, something you can let go of if you become in danger yourself

  • Lie down or crouch so you are not pulled into the water.


  • What can we throw to them?

    • Throwlines (floating lines)

    • Footballs

    • Rings

Don’t go!!

  • Do not be tempted to enter the water, keep eyes on the casualty and call 999.

  • Try and give the best location or us What3Words.

How to use a water rescue throwline

Read our guide to using a water safety throwline.

If you see someone in the water

  1. Call 999.

  2. Never jump in the water to rescue someone.

  3. Get the throwline.

  4. Hold the end of the line in one hand and the bag in your other hand.

  5. Throw the bag so that it lands beyond the casualty.

  6. Shout to the casualty to grab hold of the line, not the bag.

  7. Once they have a good grip, stabilise yourself and pull them to safety.

  8. Wait for assistance before trying to lift the casualty from the water

What to do if YOU fall into deep water - FLOAT

  • If you fall into deep water, you should lie on your back and FLOAT.

  • Fight the instinct to panic or swim - it's better to just FLOAT.

  • Lie back and keep your airways clear, push your stomach up and extend your limbs moving hands and feet to help you FLOAT.

  • Try to control the effects of cold water shock such as the gasping reflex. Once your breathing is controlled call for help and if possible try making your way towards safety.

Key safety tips for staying safe near water

  • Alcohol and swimming do not mix - stay out of the water if you have been drinking.

  • Never let older children swim in unsupervised areas like quarries, canals or ponds.

  • Never interfere with lifesaving equipment - you might need it yourself.

  • Swimming anywhere other than at purpose built and supervised swimming pools is highly dangerous and is not recommended, unless as part of an organised club.  

Open water swimming safety advice

RNLI - safety advice (opens in new window)

National water safety forum - safety advice (opens in new window)

Join a club for open water swimming

For anyone wishing to pursue open water swimming there are a number of clubs that offer supervised sessions.

To find out more or to locate a club near to you visit:

British Swimming (opens in new window)

Last updated: Monday, 17 June 2024