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Public urged to respect the water during heatwave to prevent drowning


The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) is urging the public to ‘respect the water’, after a surge in the number of accidental drownings during the recent heatwave.  

An unofficial tally from across the UK shows that there have been at least 26 fatal water incidents since temperatures started to soar on Friday, July 16. 


According to figures compiled by the National Water Safety Forum who maintain the Water Incident Database (WAID), show that there were 254 deaths from accidental drownings in 2020 across UK. Last year, more than half (58 per cent) of fatal water-incidents took place at inland open waters, such as rivers, canals, lakes, reservoirs and quarries.  

Commenting on the current spike in accidental drownings, Dawn Whittaker, Chair of the National Water Safety Forum said  

“In recent days, rescue services in some parts of the country have seen a level of demand that you might expect to see on a sunny bank holiday weekend.  

With more hot weather on the way and the reopening of more of the night-time economy in England this week it is really important that we have conversations about water safety, particularly with young people. Please visit the national water safety website for further advice about drowning prevention”  

To prevent further tragedy, we are urging the public to respect the water, follow local safety guidance and to exercise caution if drinking alcohol near water.” 

The public are also reminded by RoSPA to ‘float to live’ if they find themselves getting into trouble in the water and to follow these steps: 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.  If you are at the seaside ask for the coastguard, if you are inland, ask for the fire service. 


David Walker, head of leisure and road safety at RoSPA said “Since the beginning of this month’s heatwave, we have seen an alarming number of accidental drowning incidents- almost double the daily average we would expect to see in a normal year. 

“We know that that on a hot day, it can be tempting to cool off by going for a swim at inland water sites like reservoirs, lakes and quarries.   

“However, the water can be a lot colder than you were expecting and lead to cold water shock, which is when sudden immersion makes you gasp and lose control of your breathing and can lead to drowning. 

“Consider how you are going to get out of the water before you get in, and be honest with yourself about your swimming ability. 

“RoSPA’s advice is to go swimming at properly-supervised sites, such as beaches, lidos or swimming pools, although we appreciate that not everyone can get to these locations.

Although temperatures are set to cool over the weekend, we are still asking the public to be vigilant on and near the water.  ” 

RoSPA’s water safety warning comes just days before the first World Drowning Prevention Day which is due to be held on Sunday July 25.  

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