UK-coastal-fatality-figures-released-RNLI-warns-‘Respect-the-Water1

Byline: Coastal fatality figures1 released today (24 July) reveal 167 people lost their lives at the coast last year; the highest number in four years. The number of near-misses was even higher, with the RNLI’s UK lifeboat crews and lifeguards saving 368 lives2.
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The charity is today launching a major drowning awareness campaign, Respect the Water, warning people to stay safe this summer.

An average of 160 people die at the coast each year – that’s more than the number killed in cycling accidents. The RNLI is aiming to halve the number of accidental coastal deaths by 2024.

In total, 640 people have died around the UK coast over the past four years. The fatality figures show a clear gender divide, with adult men3 accounting for over two-thirds (68%) of these deaths.

Many would assume adrenaline sports and rough weather are the biggest causes of incidents but, in fact, it’s casual, everyday use of the coast and sea which often results in fatalities. Swimming and general leisure use of the water accounted for 20% of last year’s coastal deaths.

Cold water shock is frequently thought to be a contributing factor. Despite warm summer air temperatures, the UK sea temperature is cold enough year-round to trigger cold water shock – the average UK sea temperature is just 12oc , but cold water shock can set in at any temperature below 15oc. It causes uncontrollable gasping, which draws water into the lungs and can lead to drowning. The charity is warning people to be aware of the effects of cold water and to acclimatise gradually when getting in to the water.

Other common factors are rip currents and fatigue. Rip currents consistently account for around two-thirds of the environmental-related incidents RNLI lifeguards respond to each season. For those not at a lifeguarded beach, being caught in a rip can prove fatal if they don’t take the right steps to free themselves and make it safely to shore. Panicking and trying to swim against strong currents is exhausting and can overwhelm even the strongest swimmers. The RNLI’s advice is to not swim against the rip current but, instead, to call for help and swim parallel to shore until free from the rip current and then make for the safety of the beach.

And it’s not only water-based activities which put people in danger. Slips, trips and falls while walking or running are a major issue, accounting for 32% of last year’s coastal deaths. Alcohol consumption is also a contributing factor in around one-fifth of deaths, with 28 (17%) of the fatalities last year involving alcohol. The majority of these are men, who accounted for 23 of the 28 alcohol-related fatalities last year.

Elizabeth Toogood’s uncle drowned after being caught in a current while swimming in the sea with a friend. Elizabeth is supporting the RNLI’s Respect the Water campaign to raise awareness of the risk of drowning. She says:

‘My uncle Lee drowned in the sea off Weston-super-Mare beach when he was just 33 years old. He had grown up in Weston, swam there a lot and was very familiar with the area. Lee was a strong swimmer and confident in the water, these competencies were not enough to save his life. The sea has hidden dangers. The strength of the current and cold temperature – 11 degrees at the time of his death – were enough to sweep him out to sea and take his life. A major search was carried out by the RNLI, but there was no sign of him or his body until a week later when his body was found near the coast of Barry in Wales. The accident happened a few years ago, however the impact of this tragedy still lives on with us as a family.

‘The RNLI’s Respect the Water campaign is so important in warning people about the dangers of the water. The sea is there for us to enjoy but we must be aware of the dangers and act responsibly and safely when using it. What happened to my uncle could happen to any of us, but it can also be prevented by raising awareness.’

Ross Macleod, the RNLI’s Coastal Safety Manager, says:

‘With more people losing their lives at the coast each year than are killed in cycling accidents, we’re trying to make people, particularly men, realise that they are at risk from drowning if they don’t follow some basic but important safety advice. We want people to go to the coast and enjoy it – we’re lucky to have an exceptional coastline around the UK – but we want them to understand there are risks, and that they should not underestimate the power of the sea.

‘Our key advice is to choose a lifeguarded beach and swim between the red and yellow flags, where you’ll have professional lifeguards looking out for you. If you want a few drinks in the sun on the beach, remember that alcohol and water don’t mix, so drink after swimming, not before. Remember that, despite warm air temperatures, the UK sea temperature is cold enough year-round to trigger cold water shock, so acclimatise gradually in shallow water. Don’t over-estimate your ability – the sea is a very different environment to a pool and even the strongest swimmers can tire quickly. If you get caught in a rip current, don’t panic or try to swim against it; swim parallel to the shore until you’re free. To avoid falls, stay away from cliff edges, stick to pathways and read safety signs.’

England rugby star, James Haskell, is supporting the campaign. He says:

‘As a rugby player, I train to be as strong as I can be. But I know from experience, that even I’m no match for the strength of the sea. This campaign isn’t about telling people not to go into the water – in fact, quite the opposite. The sea is a great place to have fun and relax in the summer. This is about being smart and safe when you are there. The water is the opponent that never tires, so make sure you’re never put to the test.’

Nine key locations have been chosen for the main Respect the Water campaign activity. These are: Portsmouth; Brighton; Clacton; Kingston-on-Thames; Margate; Blackpool; Newquay; Cardiff Bay, and Queensferry. Targeted safety advice specific to each location will be on display. It will include outdoor posters, displays and radio and online advertising. The charity will also have a cubic metre of water – weighing one tonne – on display in each location, to help people realise how heavy a relatively small volume of water is.

To mark the campaign launch on 24 July, the RNLI will have a ‘Respect the Water punchbag’, containing quarter of a tonne of water, in Brighton. James Haskell will be taking on the punchbag challenge; seeing how long he can last when battling with that weight of water, reinforcing the point that water never tires but people do. The punchbag will be in Brighton from 24–27 July before moving on to other locations including Blackpool and Newquay.

1 Records from WAID database 2010–2013. RNLI has analysed the data using GIS software to plot and analyse incidents before inclusion in a specific coastal dataset (accident and natural causes only).

2 RNLI incident data 2013.

3 All males except for those known to be under 18.

Notes to Editors
• Provisional coastal fatality data taken from the National Water Safety Forum’s Water Incident Database (WAID) 2010–2013. The figures quoted are for water-related fatalities from accidents and natural causes in UK tidal waters. The figures for the past four calendar years are 167, 163, 164 and 146.
• RNLI has analysed the WAID data for 2010–2013. GIS software was used to plot and analyse incidents before inclusion in a specific coastal dataset (accident and natural causes only).
• Department for Transport statistics show that the number of people killed in cycling accidents in Great Britain in 2013 was 109.
• Elizabeth Toogood, Ross Macleod and James Haskell are available for interview. Please contact RNLI Public Relations on the numbers below to arrange interviews.
RNLI media contacts
For more information, contact Laura Fennimore, RNLI Public Relations Officer, on 01202 663181 / Laura_Fennimore@rnli.org.uk or the RNLI Press Office on 01202 336789.

Byline: Coastal fatality figures1 released today (24 July) reveal 167 people lost their lives at the coast last year; the highest number in four years. The number of near-misses was even higher, with the RNLI’s UK lifeboat crews and lifeguards saving 368 lives2.
Page Content:

The charity is today launching a major drowning awareness campaign, Respect the Water, warning people to stay safe this summer.

An average of 160 people die at the coast each year – that’s more than the number killed in cycling accidents. The RNLI is aiming to halve the number of accidental coastal deaths by 2024.

In total, 640 people have died around the UK coast over the past four years. The fatality figures show a clear gender divide, with adult men3 accounting for over two-thirds (68%) of these deaths.

Many would assume adrenaline sports and rough weather are the biggest causes of incidents but, in fact, it’s casual, everyday use of the coast and sea which often results in fatalities. Swimming and general leisure use of the water accounted for 20% of last year’s coastal deaths.

Cold water shock is frequently thought to be a contributing factor. Despite warm summer air temperatures, the UK sea temperature is cold enough year-round to trigger cold water shock – the average UK sea temperature is just 12oc , but cold water shock can set in at any temperature below 15oc. It causes uncontrollable gasping, which draws water into the lungs and can lead to drowning. The charity is warning people to be aware of the effects of cold water and to acclimatise gradually when getting in to the water.

Other common factors are rip currents and fatigue. Rip currents consistently account for around two-thirds of the environmental-related incidents RNLI lifeguards respond to each season. For those not at a lifeguarded beach, being caught in a rip can prove fatal if they don’t take the right steps to free themselves and make it safely to shore. Panicking and trying to swim against strong currents is exhausting and can overwhelm even the strongest swimmers. The RNLI’s advice is to not swim against the rip current but, instead, to call for help and swim parallel to shore until free from the rip current and then make for the safety of the beach.

And it’s not only water-based activities which put people in danger. Slips, trips and falls while walking or running are a major issue, accounting for 32% of last year’s coastal deaths. Alcohol consumption is also a contributing factor in around one-fifth of deaths, with 28 (17%) of the fatalities last year involving alcohol. The majority of these are men, who accounted for 23 of the 28 alcohol-related fatalities last year.

Elizabeth Toogood’s uncle drowned after being caught in a current while swimming in the sea with a friend. Elizabeth is supporting the RNLI’s Respect the Water campaign to raise awareness of the risk of drowning. She says:

'My uncle Lee drowned in the sea off Weston-super-Mare beach when he was just 33 years old. He had grown up in Weston, swam there a lot and was very familiar with the area. Lee was a strong swimmer and confident in the water, these competencies were not enough to save his life. The sea has hidden dangers. The strength of the current and cold temperature – 11 degrees at the time of his death – were enough to sweep him out to sea and take his life. A major search was carried out by the RNLI, but there was no sign of him or his body until a week later when his body was found near the coast of Barry in Wales. The accident happened a few years ago, however the impact of this tragedy still lives on with us as a family.

'The RNLI’s Respect the Water campaign is so important in warning people about the dangers of the water. The sea is there for us to enjoy but we must be aware of the dangers and act responsibly and safely when using it. What happened to my uncle could happen to any of us, but it can also be prevented by raising awareness.'

Ross Macleod, the RNLI’s Coastal Safety Manager, says:

‘With more people losing their lives at the coast each year than are killed in cycling accidents, we’re trying to make people, particularly men, realise that they are at risk from drowning if they don’t follow some basic but important safety advice. We want people to go to the coast and enjoy it – we’re lucky to have an exceptional coastline around the UK – but we want them to understand there are risks, and that they should not underestimate the power of the sea.

‘Our key advice is to choose a lifeguarded beach and swim between the red and yellow flags, where you’ll have professional lifeguards looking out for you. If you want a few drinks in the sun on the beach, remember that alcohol and water don’t mix, so drink after swimming, not before. Remember that, despite warm air temperatures, the UK sea temperature is cold enough year-round to trigger cold water shock, so acclimatise gradually in shallow water. Don’t over-estimate your ability – the sea is a very different environment to a pool and even the strongest swimmers can tire quickly. If you get caught in a rip current, don’t panic or try to swim against it; swim parallel to the shore until you’re free. To avoid falls, stay away from cliff edges, stick to pathways and read safety signs.’

England rugby star, James Haskell, is supporting the campaign. He says:

‘As a rugby player, I train to be as strong as I can be. But I know from experience, that even I’m no match for the strength of the sea. This campaign isn’t about telling people not to go into the water – in fact, quite the opposite. The sea is a great place to have fun and relax in the summer. This is about being smart and safe when you are there. The water is the opponent that never tires, so make sure you’re never put to the test.’

Nine key locations have been chosen for the main Respect the Water campaign activity. These are: Portsmouth; Brighton; Clacton; Kingston-on-Thames; Margate; Blackpool; Newquay; Cardiff Bay, and Queensferry. Targeted safety advice specific to each location will be on display. It will include outdoor posters, displays and radio and online advertising. The charity will also have a cubic metre of water – weighing one tonne – on display in each location, to help people realise how heavy a relatively small volume of water is.

To mark the campaign launch on 24 July, the RNLI will have a ‘Respect the Water punchbag’, containing quarter of a tonne of water, in Brighton. James Haskell will be taking on the punchbag challenge; seeing how long he can last when battling with that weight of water, reinforcing the point that water never tires but people do. The punchbag will be in Brighton from 24–27 July before moving on to other locations including Blackpool and Newquay.

1 Records from WAID database 2010–2013. RNLI has analysed the data using GIS software to plot and analyse incidents before inclusion in a specific coastal dataset (accident and natural causes only).

2 RNLI incident data 2013.

3 All males except for those known to be under 18.

Notes to Editors
• Provisional coastal fatality data taken from the National Water Safety Forum’s Water Incident Database (WAID) 2010–2013. The figures quoted are for water-related fatalities from accidents and natural causes in UK tidal waters. The figures for the past four calendar years are 167, 163, 164 and 146.
• RNLI has analysed the WAID data for 2010–2013. GIS software was used to plot and analyse incidents before inclusion in a specific coastal dataset (accident and natural causes only).
• Department for Transport statistics show that the number of people killed in cycling accidents in Great Britain in 2013 was 109.
• Elizabeth Toogood, Ross Macleod and James Haskell are available for interview. Please contact RNLI Public Relations on the numbers below to arrange interviews.
RNLI media contacts
For more information, contact Laura Fennimore, RNLI Public Relations Officer, on 01202 663181 / Laura_Fennimore@rnli.org.uk or the RNLI Press Office on 01202 336789.