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#RespectTheWater campaign backed by Swim England as drowning deaths rise

More than 50 organisations are jointly campaigning for people to #RespectTheWater after new statistics revealed the number of drowning deaths increased last year.

Swim England is supporting the co-ordinated crusade, run by the National Water Safety Forum, in a bid to reduce the number of water-related deaths and accidents.

A total of 254 people died in accidental drownings in 2020, with more fatalities inland than around the coast.

That is a rise of 31 compared with the 2019 figures and bucks a longer-term trend of decreasing figures.

These accidental drownings form part of the total water-related fatalities in the UK, which stands at 631 for 2020 – an increase of 10 on the previous year.

The national campaign aims to provide simple lifesaving advice, which can help members of the public take personal responsibility for their own and family’s safety by remembering two key tips:

  • If you get into trouble in the 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.

Increase awareness

Jane Nickerson, Swim England chief executive, said: “These latest figures are truly upsetting and my heartfelt condolences go out to every family who has suffered the loss of a loved one due to drowning.

“Learning how to swim and be safe in water is absolutely key to help prevent further tragedies.

“Every child has the right to swimming lessons at school and now the vast majority of pools have reopened following the lockdowns, we will be working closely with schools to help them achieve this important part of the national curriculum.

“It’s also never too late to learn. Many adults who can’t swim may have a fear of the water but our dedicated teachers can help them overcome their worries and concerns so they can pick up a vital life skill.

“We hope this co-ordinated #RespectTheWater campaign will increase awareness and what to do should anyone get into difficulty in the water.”

The latest figures from the Water Incident Database (WAID), which is maintained by the National Water Safety Forum, also show:

  • Inland open waters, such as rivers, canals, lakes, reservoirs and quarries continue to be the leading locations with 58 per cent (139) of deaths
  • Males continue to over represent with 78 per cent (199) of deaths
  • Almost half (43 per cent) of people had no intention to enter the water, with 107 either walking, with causes including slips, trips and falls, being cut off by the tide or swept in by waves.

Understand dangers

Dawn Whittaker, CEO East Sussex Fire Rescue Service and National Water Safety Forum chair-designate, said: “Last summer presented considerable challenges at our coastal and inland waterways.

“This has meant that members of the National Water Safety Forum have decided to come together around the #RespectTheWater campaign to help prevent further deaths.

“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 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.

“This comes at a time when the global community have committed to a UN resolution that recognises for the first time the scale and burden of drowning and calls for urgent international action.”

Other organisations backing the #RespectTheWater campaign include rescue services, charities, regulators, navigation and harbour authorities, local government, utilities and those representing quarry operators.

To view and download the WAID 2020 report visit nationalwatersafety.org.uk/waid/annual-reports-and-data/

Find swimming lessons near you by visiting www.swimming.org/justswim/love-swimming-campaign/