News & Events
Respect the Water during ‘deadliest’ month
The number of near-fatal incidents is at its highest in August, with the charity’s lifeboat crews and lifeguards in the region saving the most lives during this busy summer month. With summer holidays well underway, the charity is reminding people to dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard in the event of an emergency at the coast.
Over the past five years, there have been 26 deaths at the south west coast in August, more than in any other month.
This is also the busiest time of year for the RNLI’s lifesavers. Last August, the charity’s lifeboat crews in the south west launched their lifeboats in response to 313 emergencies, nearly one-fifth (19%) of their total call-outs for the year. Meanwhile, RNLI lifeguards in the region responded to 5,177 incidents on beaches during and August, 47% of their total annual incidents.
Last August, RNLI lifeboat crews and lifeguards in the south west saved the lives of 55 people (44% of all the lives they saved in 2016).
As part of the RNLI’s drowning prevention campaign, Respect the Water, the charity is calling on the public to help save more lives during this busy period by remembering and sharing key survival skills. First, if you see someone else in danger in the water, fight your instincts to go in after them and instead call 999 and ask for the Coastguard. Research commissioned by the RNLI has revealed that less than one-fifth (17%) of people in the UK say they would call 999 immediately to request help if they saw someone fall into open water.
While summer air temperatures may be warm, UK and Irish waters rarely exceed 15C, making them cold enough year-round to trigger cold water shock, which causes the instinctive reaction to gasp and swim hard, which can quickly lead to drowning. With around half the coastal deaths each year being people who accidentally slip or fall into the water, the RNLI’s second piece of advice is: If you fall into cold water, fight your instincts to swim hard and thrash about. Instead, float for 60–90 seconds until the effects of cold water shock pass and you can catch your breath before then swimming to safety or calling for help.
Anyone planning a trip to the beach is advised by the RNLI to choose a lifeguarded beach and swim between the red and yellow flags, which is the area most closely monitored by the lifeguards.
The RNLI’s national drowning prevention campaign, Respect the Water, is part of the charity’s work to halve coastal drownings by 2024. The theme of the campaign is: ‘Fight your instincts, not the water.’ It reminds people of the risks but, most importantly, provides them with the skills to survive for longer if they unexpectedly find themselves in water, and the knowledge of what to do should they see someone else in danger.
RNLI lifeguards patrol water's edge
Credit: RNLI/Nathan Williams