Drowning is one of the leading causes of accidental death in children in the UK, and every year, over 700 people drown in the UK and Ireland; approximately one person every 10 hours. According to the Royal Life Saving Society’s Director of Education, Mike Dunn, you are more likely to die from drowning than you are from being hit by a car or in a fire.
The Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK) thinks that every drowning is preventable, and they exist to offer education and advice to “make sure no one ever drowns”.
The society run an annual Drowning Prevention Week to raise awareness of the problem and to reduce the number of drowning and near drowning incidences that happen. This year, the campaign starts on Friday June 14th and finishes on Monday June 24th and has 3 major aims:
- To increase the number of children receiving water safety education
- To reduce the number of drowning incidences
- To promote drowning prevention projects and initiatives at local and national level
The campaign focuses on showing people how to be safe and have fun near water, and encourages schools, clubs, leisure centres and communities, to promote water safety education through events, lessons, games and activities, in a bid to make people more aware of the dangers that water poses, especially in the summer months, when more of us are tempted to enter the water at lakes, beaches and swimming pools.
The first thing to remember is to always follow the water safety code. The message is simple but needs to be reiterated, often. You can download a poster like the one shown, here.
- 52% of accidental drownings happen in open water
- More than 80% of all accidental drownings are male
- More than 56% never intended to be in the water
- Around 34% of accidental drownings happen in the summer
- The highest percentage of drownings occur in the age range 20–29 years old
Statistics from RLSS UK website
When we think about drowning, many people wrongly assume that it is mostly people who have gone swimming and maybe got into trouble, but over half of accidental drownings occur in people who never intended to be in the water in the first place. And when you really think about where we interact with water, you realise that the problem is not just confined to lakes, beaches and swimming pools, but also to the safe use of paddling pools, ponds, streams, puddles and yes, baths. People can drown in only a few centimetres of water so learning about water safety in different environments is vital.
The RLSS UK website has lots of useful advice and information relevant to different situations, including water safety for:
- Open water places
- Winter water and ice
- Summer water advice
- Commercial swimming pools
- Residential swimming pools
- Water at home (paddling pools, ponds, baths, water storage containers etc.)
- The beach
- During a flood
In addition, the site offers advice on how to help someone who is drowning, cold-water shock, lifeguard and first aider training and links to other campaigns, schemes and awards they run. And they have many free, educational resources, and videos to help you, at whatever level you need.
It’s vital to get these important messages across to all ages and there are many ways for everyone to get involved; parents, teachers, educators, nurseries, community groups and of course, children, to make as many people as possible aware of the key messages - things that could ultimately save their own, or someone else’s life.
How to get involved
If you want to get involved in this year’s Drowning Prevention Week, you can register on the website here: www.rlss.org.uk/drowning-prevention-week and gain access to their many different resources. There are resources for schools, parents, community groups, and others so you can use these to plan an education session for your children, staff or parents.
Consider the following activities:
- Run a water safety educational session – you can buy or make related certificates to give out to show a child’s participation in the session
- Organise a water fun day, raising awareness of water safety at the same time
- Hold a stall at a local summer fair to share key messages
- Download and put up the water safety code poster
- Share the messages on your social media platforms letting everyone know you are supporting the awareness week. Suitable images are available from the website
- Hold a fundraiser for the charity
If you download the Drowning Prevention Week Toolkit, you will find many useful ideas and activities along with risk assessment forms, email and letter templates and examples of press releases for local news outlets, to get you started.
Water safety at home
Whilst drownings at home are less frequent that at other places, the RLSS UK believe they are more preventable. So it is important to pass on the advice for water safety at home so that nurseries can ensure they are using water safely in their settings and they are taking action to pass this advice on to their parents and staff.
"Always use self-closing gates, fences and locks to prevent children from gaining access to pools of water"
"Securely cover all water storage tanks and drains"
"Empty paddling pools and buckets as soon as they have been used. Always turn paddling pools upside down once empty"
"Always supervise bath time (never leave children unattended). Empty the bath as soon as possible after use"
"Vulnerable adults and people who suffer from sudden seizures should consider using showers rather than baths"
And if you needed any more motivation, there are some heart-wrenching true stories on the website about young people who have lost their lives by drowning. Don’t let the people you know and love become a statistic – spread the word and take action to prevent drowning today.