Today (Tuesday 25 July) marks the third World Drowning Prevention Day by the World Health Organisation and with school children across the UK enjoying their summer holidays already, the RNLI is reminding people how to stay safe while enjoying the coast. 

New statistics show it was the busiest summer for RNLI lifeguards in the south west last year (compared to the previous five summers), as they aided 7,241 people – including 2,800 children and 1,514 teenagers. The lifeguard teams dealt with 5,793 incidents and saved 17 lives, between July 25 – September 2, 2022 across the south west’s lifeguarded beaches (in 2021 the teams dealt with 4,777 incidents, aided 5,503 people and saved 12 lives).

Swim Between the Flags credit RNLI

Steve Instance, RNLI Water Safety Lead in the South West, said:

‘There were 5,793 incidents attended by lifeguards in our region last year, the highest number of incidents for the last six years. Now the weather is warming up and the summer holidays are upon us, we’re seeing large numbers of people visit the south west coastline to make the most of what our region has to offer.

‘Our lifeguard teams are already very busy, working hard to keep people safe in the water. Many of the incidents our lifeguards attend during the school holidays involve children and teenagers and we would urge everyone – but families in particular – to be aware of the risks and know what to do in an emergency.

‘Our advice this summer is to choose a lifeguarded beach and swim between the red and yellow flags. There are plenty of beaches to choose from across the region, and the lifeguard teams are always on hand to offer advice on how people can stay safe.

‘If you find yourself in difficulty in the water, remember Float to Live. Tilt your head back with your ears submerged and try to relax and control your breathing. Use your hands to help you stay afloat and then call for help or swim to safety if you can. If you see someone else in difficulty, call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.’

‘We want people to enjoy the coast but urge everyone to think about their own safety, take time to familiarise yourself with our advice and share this with your friends and family.’

There were 226 deaths in the UK from accidental drownings in 2022, across inland and coastal locations. 41 of these were in July and 44 in August – more than twice the number than in any other month. Of the people who died, 40% had no intention of entering the water.*

The third World Drowning Prevention Day follows a UN resolution on drowning prevention, acknowledging the issue for the first time in its 75-year history.

The RNLI played an important role in the adoption of the UN resolution, working alongside the World Health Organisation (WHO), and the national governments of Ireland and Bangladesh to put a focus on drowning prevention.