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Swim England supports nationwide campaign as drowning deaths increase

A nationwide campaign urging people to Respect The Water is being backed by Swim England after new data revealed there were 277 accidental drownings in 2021.

That was a rise of 23 on the 2020 total and the figure forms part of the 616 total water-related fatalities at the UK’s inland and coastal locations throughout the year.

The statistics are from the Water Incident Database (WAID), which is managed by the National Water Safety Forum, and show a second consecutive increase in accidental drownings.

Now, simple advice which could save a life is being promoted in a bid to prevent further tragedies – especially as the weather gets warmer but water temperatures remain dangerously cold.

The National Water Safety Forum say:

  • If you get into trouble in the water, float to live
  • Lean back and use your arms and legs to help you float, then get control of your breathing before calling for help or swimming to safety.
  • If you see someone else in trouble in the water, call 999 or 112. If you are at the coast ask for the coastguard. If you are inland, ask for the fire service.

Jon Glenn, Swim England learn to swim and workforce director, said: “These figures are devastating and our condolences go to everyone who has lost a loved one.

“The sea, rivers, lakes and canals can all look extremely inviting on a warm, sunny day but that’s far from the case and everyone should follow the advice and Respect the Water.

“Forty per cent of those who accidentally drowned had no intention to enter the water with causes including slips, trips and falls or being cut off by the tide.

Never too late to learn

“That’s why it is vital that people learn to swim and have the necessary skills to keep them safe.

“It’s never too late to learn and it could literally save your life.”

The National Water Safety Forum’s Respect the Water campaign is due to be officially launched ahead of UN World Drowning Prevention Day on July 25.

Dawn Whittaker, CEO East Sussex Fire Rescue Service and National Water Safety Forum chair said: “The pandemic continued to present considerable challenges at our coastal and inland waterways last year as more people had staycations.

“The #RespectTheWater campaign is designed to help prevent further deaths and injuries in water.

“We urge the public to understand the dangers, to learn the importance of knowing how to float to live, and to call 999 if others are in trouble and if there is a water related emergency.

“We have seen increased numbers participating in water sports and water-based activities and consequently a rise of the number of incidents associated with activities such as Stand-up Paddle boarding and open water swimming.

“We want people to enjoy the water safely, so we will continue to focus on guidance, education and awareness for the public.

“We will continue to work together to reduce deaths caused by drowning and water related injuries in the UK, and endeavour to reach our collective goal of halving accidental drownings in the UK by 2026.

“The global water safety community is onboard with a UN resolution recognising the scale and burden of drowning, calling for urgent international action.”