#BeWaterAware Campaign 2022

Today is Day 3 of the 2022 National Fire Chiefs Council – NFCC #BeWaterAware campaign

One of the reasons that education and sharing facts and information about risks is so important is because it’s BEHAVIOUR that causes many deaths in water

Drinking alcohol before going into water…increases risk

Tombstoning…jumping from height into water …increases risk

Cold water shock…not knowing about this and jumping into cold water increases risk

Lack of the use of a simple lifejacket or floatation device when out on the water …increases risk

Parents on holiday distracted by mobile phones or reading a book when young children are in the pool / in the sea …increases risk

Dangerous driving / high speed manoeuvres when using jet skis or powerboats ….criss crossing or bough wave riding …increases risk

Taking photos close to the edge when there are high waves crashing onto the coast …increases risks

If people respected water more and altered their choices and behaviours we would see significantly less deaths in UK water each year.

The RNLI, Fire and Rescue Services, the Coastguard and Lifeguards all respond to thousands of emergencies in water every year, sometimes putting their own lives at risk to save people who have made bad choices and put themselves in danger.

So please think, talk to your family, make good choices and enjoy being in, on or by the water safely

Rospa Water Safety Conference

Yesterday i had the pleasure of chairing the UKs Rospa annual conference

With a fantastic panel of experts who had all prerecorded their presentations and over 200 delegates asking some great questions on wide ranging topics such as water safety rescue equipment, risks, education, behaviour insights, data, systems thinking….just great. I tried m best to fit in as many questions as I could ….but there were just too many for the time we had

I hope that people found it valueable….made new contacts, that they are inspired to continue to help improve water safety in the Uk. There were so many familiar faces and names, but also lots of new people ….parents, professionals, politicians, academics, charities, swimmers,….a rich diversity of contributions

We will ensure we share with all that couldn’t make it and also take from the event contributions that will feed into our strategy review


Big Day For water safety

This morning a meeting about the UN resolution and the first Drowning Prevention Day on 25th July….this evening a debate in Parliament about water safety education in schools

With over 230,000 drownings worldwide each year….631 deaths in the water in the UK during 2020 …we need to see change and a different approach to water safety

WAID UK Statistics 2020

The National Water Safety Forum have last week published their annual report of water based fatalities in the UK. 2020 saw 631 deaths, 242 of which were recorded as accidental


Once again the highest proportion of casualties were male (199/242) and proportionately a higher % of lives were lost inland rather than on the coast/ at sea. A high number of casualties had alcohol/ substances in their body.

COVID-19 impact hasn’t been fully analysed …however the following facts are true and undoubtedly contributed…..

The Coastguard were extremely busy during summer 2020 and recorded their highest number of call outs ever on August 8th

The number of people that took up outdoor swimming and paddle sports (eg kayaking and SUPB) whilst pools and gyms were closed rose rapidly and many of those did not have tuition, nor use the appropriate equipment

the hot summer weather as lockdown lifted and there were no foreign holidays, people flocked to the coast and beaches were packed, whilst many of the local attractions and amenities remained closed

The National Water Safety Forum are concerned about the potential for high numbers to be repeated in 2021 and have issued both warnings and advice about water safety as part of a call by over 50 organisations to #RespectTheWater

Please take care and understand the risks …we want everyone to enjoy being in, on and by the water in the UK .

Day 7- #BeWaterAware – When Normality Returns


Today is the final day of the NFCC campaign for 2020…..but the messages shared and water safety work will continue through the year.

The campaign planned theme for today was “Away from Home” and of course in normal circumstances on a sunny Sunday at the end of April many families would probably have been heading out to the coast or for a day out in the countryside…..but not at the moment  hopefully, as we should all be complying with the guidance to stay home and not make any journey that is not essential.

The messages that many have shared and adapted in the current climate about taking care when going out for your one permitted daily exercise have been good …and it may seem to you a bit odd that today I am choosing to highlight holidays and foreign travel, but there is a reason……..I suspect that when we see the lockdown lifted….even if that doesn’t start for a month or two…people will be desperate to get out and have trips….either staycations or when air travel opens up…to have a holiday. I also suspect that places like Spain, Portugal, Turkey will be desperate to attract British visitors back and there maybe some fantastic value deals on offer….so because of that I think it’s important to prepare and make you aware


In 2018 77 UK nationals drowned abroad, 70% of that number were tourists and critically it’s important to know that many more children are involved in drowning instances abroad than at home …in swimming pools. That last statistic is important if you are taking children on holiday and planning lots of pool time, which they love, but there are some important points…the regulations that related to pool safety are not as strict in some countries, you may want to check if the resort you are choosing has a lifeguard or pool attendant on duty and most importantly…when you go, supervise and watch children when they are in water.

A couple of years ago a colleague of mine was abroad on holiday with his own family…he  works in the emergency services, so he is trained to be tuned into risk and assessment of situations. At the poolside one day, he and his partner were taking it in turns to relax in the sun and watch their children in the pool and whilst he was “on watch” he observed a developing situation……he ran to the pool, dived in and saved a life. What had happened ….a young girl that he didn’t know, with long hair had been enjoying herself in the pool and had decided to do an underwater handstand ….sadly she was close to an underwater vent for the filtration system and it sucked her hair into the vent, so strongly that she could not get free and was trapped …she would have drowned if my colleague had not been watching and reacted quickly to save her ………it’s that simple.

In 2018 we saw 243 accidental drownings occur in UK, whilst in Spain there were 473 and 25% of that number were foreign nationals ….of which the highest % were from UK. These are just facts and not intended to put anyone off going to Spain with their family as it’s a wonderful country, with friendly people and with some really good value packages….what it is intended to do is raise awareness and encourage people to #BeWaterAware even when on holiday….make some enquires before you book with your travel agent or the venue about pool safety, whilst on holiday you must supervise your children and keep an eye on them as accidents can happen so easily and also when you are at the beach….home or away….please do not use inflatables in the sea….it’s not safe unless you have them secured by a rope being held by an adult, as tides and off shore breeze can so quickly take them out to sea.  I know the 🦢 swans, flamingo 🦩 and unicorns 🦄 floats and inflatables look fun, but they are only safe in pools and by law should be marked as unsafe for use in the sea……much better to spend your money on a buoyancy aid or flotation aid for your kids, which will help keep them safer while they have fun in the water.

Finally, as this is the last day of the campaign…I want to say a huge thanks to everyone who has contributed and those that have shared messages and the fantastic organisations that help us all be safer in the water in the UK ….there are many of those …but in particular ROSPA, RNLI, RLSS and our wonderful Coastguards and Lifeguards out on the sharp end. I also want to pay a heartfelt tribute once again to the families that have been impacted by a drowning that use their stories and voices to raise awareness 💙 and the VERY last thank you I have is for my colleagues in the UK Fire and Rescue Services and NFCC media team who produce and deliver this campaign…you are water safety warriors and you are helping to save lives 💙

#BeWaterAware  #StaySafe   #StayHome   #ProtecttheNHS


Day 6 -BeWaterAware – Missing after a night out…the families


Yesterday the focus of this blog was young drinkers and the facts and statistics associated with drowning, today we will focus on the truth behind the data…..the human story behind these incidents and the safety advice a few families want to share

Yesterday in making the point that many people, either in the past or perhaps fairly recently  have had a drop too much alcohol on a night out, perhaps just when socialising or maybe celebrating an event …..what I was beginning to emphasise was the potential for risk of an accident or injury is quite common.

Over the years, in working with families impacted by the loss of a loved one as a result of drowning, one of the hardest things to see is when others pass judgement on the casualty and make hurtful comments on social media when they are aware the individual has been drinking….some examples …’He was drunk, so it was his fault’…..‘ take the risk, pay the price’ ….’yet another p****d student who has wasted tax payers money’….sometimes I respond to such comments when I see them as they infuriate me, not only because of the lack of human empathy for the bereaved family, who often read their comments whilst grieving….but also because of their ignorance of the full facts of the incident….often the contributory facts are far from simple…..think for a moment….the young women who had her drink spiked in the club, the young man who had tried to get home in a taxi/bus, but was refused passage because he had been drinking, the young person whose friends had dared them to skinny dip after a skin full, the young man who was unfamiliar with the area and in the dark stepped of the path into the river which had no railings….some of these real cases where not about the choices the casualty made …although they did choose to have a few drinks….the contributory factors are sometimes about the behaviours of others….worth thinking about perhaps before passing comments on social media reports of a fatality

The bravery of a bereaved family to speak up or contribute to one of many campaigns to improve water safety or prevent drowning is very significant…and what is their motivation to do that? I can assure you it does not help them to deal with their grief when they get such reactions (above)…but they do it because they do not want to think their loved one died in vain…nor see another family experience the pain they are feeling, they want simple safeguards to be put in place…they want to warn, inform and educate others about just how frequently this happens and reality that one night out can end a life and devastate a family.

The National Fire Chiefs Council and other members of the National Water Safety Forum are grateful to the families that have contributed their voices to the #BeWaterAware #DontDrinkandDrown #RespecttheWater and other campaigns and we are all hopeful that hearing a few of these stories makes people think about their own behaviours…..whether it’s the people in the night club who throw out a person who has had too much to drink without a care for their safety, the predators who spike drinks of young women, the landowners who could improve the safety of their sites for minimal cost to reduce risk, the pubs that serve cheap shots and continue to serve drinks to people who have had too much, the mates that dare their friends to do something dangerous…because it will be a laugh, to the taxi, bus drivers who have refused safe passage hope to someone just because they have been drinking (they are not being sick or aggressive) ……just watch and listen

Daniel’s story

Charlie’s Story

Shane’s story

Megan’s story…and other families impact by a drowning….not connected to alcohol

Day 5 – #BeWaterAware – Missing after a night out


Today’s message focus is young drinkers…and I will set out the facts and statistics…..tomorrow on Day 6, the focus will be similar…but touch on the human story behind these incidents, behaviours and the safety advice to share

There won’t be many amongst you that haven’t in the past or perhaps fairly recently  had a drop too much alcohol on a night out, many drinking socially or to celebrate something, but the reality is that we also know that there is a very significant statistical correlation between excessive use of alcohol and drowning in the UK.

In 2018 the National Union of Students published a survey of over 2,000 UK students which concluded that ‘ It is concerning that university life is still strongly associated with excessive alcohol consumption. More so, many think that others drink to fit in with their peers.‘


Sadly every year during September (freshers week period) and December (Christmas party season) spikes in student deaths from drowning occur….but the factors that affect this are not just the amount of alcohol consumed, they are also to do with the fact that students may be away at Uni in their first year and not know the town or city very well and get disoriented when returning home after a night out…also the location of student accommodation in relation to the night time economy areas is an issue …particularly if main walking routes between the two are by riversides without lighting or safety barriers.

But it’s not just students…other research has confirmed that the majority of men who go missing on a night out are under 35yrs old and will have been drinking…..stag dos and Christmas parties/ nights out feature….it’s tragic when a night out celebrating ends with someone not making it home to their family.


The National Water Safety Forum (NWSF) who are a collective of organisations, charities and agencies who promote water safety and who are the authors of the UK Drowning Prevention Strategy (2016-2026) also produce through WAID an annual report of drowning statistics and collaborate to focus water safety campaigns on target audiences that are higher risk….young, male drinkers are the key audience for the Royal Life Saving Societies ‘Dont Drink and Drown’ campaign and similarly the RNLI have targeted similar audiences in the past as part of their RESPECT THE WATER campaign



The most recent annual NWSF report identifies that in 2018 that of the 243 accidental drownings that occurred, 230 of those were male, 92 had consumed alcohol or drugs and the age profile of the 92 were that 45 of them where under 35.


The facts and statistics speak for themselves …we need to do more to raise awareness and increase the education for young men to reduce UK drownings after a night out.

Day 4 #BeWaterAware -What to do if you fall In?

C1CCA12B-8336-4269-8194-378276D33847Sometimes people incorrectly assume that those who get into difficulty or drown in water intended to be in the water, had gone for a swim or involved in water sports ….in fact that is not accurate. The highest incidence level in the UK is actually from people slipping or tripping when out walking or running.

So what do you do if you fall in ?

if it’s not deep, then hopefully you can get yourself out, but take care if you have swallowed or inhaled water…you may still need to seek medical attention

If it’s deep or you can’t exit and if you have a companion they can obviously help or shout to attract other passers by attention so someone knows you are in difficulty and can ring to get help….that doesn’t mean phone a mate, that means ring 999 if inland ask for the Fire and Rescue Service or at the beach/ coast ask for thé Coastguard

However In the event you are alone you need to think ‘Float to live’ and if you haven’t seen the RNLI video…watch it, this technique saves lives and buys time. (Link below)

If you do have someone to help and they have rung the emergency services, you can ask them to try and throw you any nearby PRE  …public rescue equipment…many water ways now have life buoys/rings or throwline boards ….failing that a ball or something else that floats, just to help you keep you head above water as you can quickly tire in cold water or if you have tried to swim or been treading water.5CCBA9DD-5566-4688-8F3F-78E87263FCD5

Or they may be able to reach out to you with an object…a fishing pole, a long branch, an oar or anything close at hand so you can be pulled in ….

We don’t advise other people to jump in and try to rescue you, but if they do, don’t panic and try to grab them….or we risk having two casualties….stay calm and allow them to assist if they can to help keep you afloat or get you to the shore/ waterside.

If you do get out before the emergency services arrive, then try and get warm if you can as shock may set in…..if you are not out of the water and they need to perform a rescue don’t panic as they may need to get into special rescue kit or get rescue equipment out before they can perform a rescue.

Knowing what to do can make all the difference …save a life …take 10 minutes now to ensure you know what to do. Also we encourage everyone that can to learn CPR and basic first aid….knowing what to do if someone goes into shock or has suffered trauma or has a heart attack can also save lives.

Watch the video below now….know how to Float…..even if you don’t need to do it personally you may have to help someone that has fallen in.

Day 3 of #BeWaterAware – Away from home


Of course at this moment when we find ourselves all involved in lockdown due to the Corona virus epidemic, no one is away from home, UK beaches are pretty much closed, no one is able to take weekend trips and foreign holidays may seem like a dream….but this won’t last forever and there are a few important things to consider as part of the BeWaterAware campaign for when lockdown lifts ….

Today my blog focuses on the UK and by that I mean when we take day trips or domestic holidays away from our own home area in the UK.  We are blessed, as a small island we have lots of beautiful coastline, in fact the mapping authority for the United Kingdom, the Ordnance Survey, records the coastline of the main island, Great Britain, as 11,072.76 miles rounding to 11,073 miles (17,820 km), alongside lovely lochs, lakes, canals and rivers…it’s no wonder that water plays such an important part in our leisure activity.

One of the important things to remember when you are away from home visiting a new area is that you may not be as familiar with the water risks in that area, for example Camber Sands beach in Sussex has beautiful long stretches of sand …but is prone to sandbars, shifting underwater levels, which means that the unaware can find themselves quickly out of their depth, as compared with some of the beautiful coastline in Wales or Devon which are surfers 🏄‍♀️ paradise due to the waves …but some of which are prone to Rip Tides, which can quickly catch you out if you don’t know what they are (rivers in the sea) and how to get out of them. Equally the Thames and the River Ouse have beautiful spots along their length, but both are tidal rivers and it’s important to know the tidal patterns and forecasts.

So a few simple things to consider when visiting the British coastline…

1. Choose a lifeguarded beach – not only will they know the beach well and be able to give advice, but if you want to swim, safe areas will be designated.

2. Follow the advice on signage…particularly warning signs which will advise where it’s safe and not safe, for example some coastal cliff areas are prone to landfall

3. Know your flags – there are lots of sources of advice….but you would be amazed at the number of adults I talk to that don’t know.400BACF0-EF64-4E2D-B7AA-732BEEF182DA

4. Know your limits…and that of your friends and family ….whether you are swimming, surfing or paddle boarding, you will know your level of competence and ability so think about that ….a swim out to ‘that rock’ might be fine for some in your group, but not for others and particularly young males like to push their boundaries

5. Take sensible precautions and don’t add to your own risk….a few things here…

NEVER enter the water after drinking alcohol…they do not mix well and too many drownings in UK are caused by alcohol, as it affects judgment and impairs motor skills

Wear a life jacket if you are undertaking water sports and consider a buoyancy aid for young children even if they are only paddling, protective personal equipment saves lives

When you have soaked up the sun and decide to go and cool off…be aware of the temperature shift and impact on your body…UK waters remain cold even in the height of summer and diving in can cause shock…cold water shock is a known factor in many UK drownings, so be sensible, walk in and acclimatise and get over that initial gasp BEFORE you fully enter the water.

5. When you visit a new beach area, it’s wise to just notice if there is a first aid station or locations of PRE ( rescue equipment) …whether it’s sunstroke, weaver fish, cuts on rocks or glass…each year many people need to use these facilities. You may even think it worth carrying a small first aid pack in your beach bag with waterproof plasters if you have kids with you.

All of this is just sensible advice, we all want people to enjoy their time off, relax and enjoy the water or water sides safely, but unlike road users there is no test to pass to keep you safe so a bit of self awareness and water safety advice is important.

When the lockdown ends it’s likely our coast will be busy, so use the time wisely before that and make sure you and your family are #BeWaterAware



Day 2 #BeWaterAware 2020


Today the campaign focuses on activities near water as more than 50% of people who drowned in 2018, did not expect to enter the water.
Some of these deaths are due to intoxication on nights out, however, many people were just undertaking everyday activities near water such as running, walking, exercising a dog or fishing.

The aim of our campaign is simply to increase awareness of the everyday risks in, on and around water

Why…..well because if people are not anticipating entering the water, they would not reasonably be expected to be prepared and won’t be wearing a life jacket and possibly are not wearing the appropriate clothing.

Water in the UK remains cold, even on very warm days and sudden immersion can lead to cold water shock, which can cause gasping and intake of water and is a common factor in drowning in UK if people don’t know how to deal with it and acclimatise their bodies

Alcohol and/or drugs can be a factor, as people are not only more likely to take risks when under the influence of these substances, but they may also have reduced Levels of perception and motors skills if they enter the water.

It is believed pre-existing medical conditions can also play a part in drowning ( either as a reason for entering the water or not being able to self rescue)

Often solitary – two-thirds of analysed coastal walking fatalities were alone at the time of the incident.

Runners are often distracted by their activity, maybe with headphones and may not notice the hazards of slippery or eroded paths

We know that risk taking…dares, jumping from height (tombstoning) is also a factor in drownings, particularly amongst young males, with poor understanding or risk perception. Even if they don’t drown, many incurring injuries.

Safety Advice:
Make sure your walk or run is appropriate for your fitness level even if you are just taking a leisurely stroll, maybe consider joining a running or walking group.

Be aware and take notice of any warning signs….they are there for a reason.

When running or walking next to water, stay clear of the edges

River banks and cliff edges may be unstable and give way – particularly after bad weather.

Wear appropriate footwear and clothing – even if you are just going to stretch your legs

Take a fully charged mobile phone and check signal strength, and know who to call in an emergency (999 Fire and Rescue for inland or Coastguard at the coast)

Make sure you know exactly where you are – consider something like an OS locate app for a smart phone or a map

Don’t leave your mates on the way home from a night out….make sure everyone gets home.

Dares can be disastrous, if you care about your friends don’t get them to do things that could harm them, that’s not being a mate.