Death has been in the headlines continually in the last year. However, one statistic you might not have heard, is that on average, 402 UK and Irish citizens die each year of accidental drowning, deaths which the Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS) argue are completely preventable, stating that “Even one drowning is one too many”. And they are on a mission to change it.
From the 19th to the 26th June, the RLSS is organising Drowning Prevention Week as part of their mission to help everybody enjoy water safely. The campaign encourages schools, parents, leisure centres, water sports providers, and the wider community to use water resources safely and to take the time to teach people the skills they need to enjoy a “lifetime of fun in the water”. The campaign is needed more than ever this year because a lot of time and education has been lost during the pandemic with swimming pools closed and swimming lessons cancelled, revealing a large education gap in water safety.
What is even more worrying is that in some communities, where engagement with water safety activities and swimming has been traditionally low, this gap seems to have increased and there needs to be a large and more focused effort to reach out to these communities and get the messages across.
Some of these under-represented communities include the Black community where 80% of children and 95% of adults do not swim. Other groups where the society is keen to get safety messages across are in younger people, particularly males since over 80% of those who drown accidentally are male and 23% are aged between 16-30, with a massive 46% reported as never intending to go in the water.
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On July 31 last year, a ten-year-old boy, Ravi Saini survived for more than an hour using floating advice he had remembered seeing on a BBC TV documentary, after being swept out to sea whilst enjoying a day out at a beach near Scarborough. His RNLI rescuers praised him when they found him floating on his back, with his arms and legs spread, shouting for help, and were convinced that his ‘Float to live’ technique (see below) had saved his life.
One of the best things you can do to help the campaign, therefore, is to spread the simple water safety messages, and to raise awareness of the issue among your staff, parents and friends.
Last year, the RLSS educated nearly two million people with essential water safety advice, and this year, they are hoping to reach many more. You can show your support by downloading and sharing images, templates and banners from their website to add to your social media accounts, and use the following hashtags and Twitter tags with messages of support:
The society is also producing a range of educational materials and a toolkit to use in your settings and there are resources aimed especially at pre-schoolers, primary, and secondary schools too. The toolkit includes suggested social media posts, example emails, and blogs to advise parents about the week, so a lot of the work has been done for you. It is just a matter of getting the message out to the people you know. And there’s a prize draw for everyone who uses the hashtags/tags, giving them the chance to win a Dryrobe changing robe, so there’s an extra incentive to get the message out.
What are the main messages?
This year, there are 3 main messages:
- Throughout 2020 and 2021, young people have vitally missed out on the opportunity to swim, leaving a dramatic gap in school swimming and water safety education
- Drowning is preventable – even one drowning is one too many
- Through free, accessible education and training, everyone can enjoy water safely
Follow the Water Safety Code
The Water Safety Code is a simple code to follow whenever you are near water and is the backbone of all water safety education. Its messages are simple and aimed at helping people make the right, early critical decisions around water, as well as telling them what to do in an emergency.
However, water safety is not just about going swimming and their advice extends to keeping people safe at home, using the bath, paddling pools, swimming pools and aquaparks, and whilst walking near water in winter too. Check out the website for lots of helpful advice for families and people of all ages, and you can even learn how to gain lifesaving qualifications or participate in lifesaving competitions.
Below are some of the main messages and advice to follow.
‘Float to live’ advice from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI)
People are urged to follow this potentially lifesaving advice if they find themselves in trouble after falling into cold water.
Fight your instinct, not the water – meaning don’t try to swim hard or thrash about as this can lead to breathing in water and drowning, especially if people are suffering from cold water shock
Instead, relax and float on your back, spreading your arms and legs out like a starfish until you have regained control of your breathing