The RNLI is sending men a stark reminder as the holiday season reaches its August peak and millions flock to the beach: practise floating to avoid becoming a coastal fatality. It can be the difference between life and death if you find yourself in trouble in the water.

Float to save your life

Float to save your life

Last year 115 men died accidentally on the UK coast – 90% of the total.  The worrying trend has continued this summer with several more high profile instances of men drowning.

But the skill of floating is helping to save lives – already 12 people have come forward to say the RNLI’s Float to Live advice was absolutely key to their surviving potential drowning.

The advice from the charity is: if you find yourself in trouble in cold water, fight the instinct to swim hard, thrash about and gasp for breath, as this increases the chance of breathing in water. Instead, stay calm and float on your back. Despite this feeling counter-intuitive, floating will help keep your airway clear, allowing you to regain control of your breathing. Only then should you attempt to swim to safety, signal for help or continue floating.

Despite the high air temperatures in summer, the water around the UK’s coasts remains cold year-round. In the last five years 92 people have died at the coast in August and in 2018 30% of all coastal deaths took place in July and August alone. In the same months, RNLI volunteer lifeguards and crews rescued over 26,000 people around the UK and Ireland, preventing many more tragedies.

The RNLI is urging people to practice the float technique in a safe and controlled environment to help build confidence in floating should trouble arise.

For those planning to go into the water this August the charity’s advice is to choose a lifeguarded beach and swim between the red and yellow flags – the area most closely monitored by the lifeguards. And if you see someone else in danger in the water at the coast, fight your instinct to go in and try to rescue them yourself, instead call 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard.

What to do to keep safe at the coast

  • The natural reaction on immersion in cold water can be to panic and thrash around, which increases the chances of breathing in water and drowning. The best thing to do in this situation is FLOAT on your back, keeping your airway clear until you can control your breathing. You can then plan your next move to safety.
  • If you do see a friend in trouble in the water at the coast, fight your instinctive reaction to go in after them, as this puts you at risk of getting in trouble yourself. The best way to help is to call 999 or 112 immediately and ask for the Coastguard. You can try to find something that floats and throw it towards them or tell them to FLOAT on their back until help arrives.
  • 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.

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