RNLI Launches New Campaign

9 August 2013, 12:49 | Updated: 9 August 2013, 14:04

England rugby star James Haskell joins the RNLI on Brighton beach to help promote the charity's new campaign.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), is launching a new drowning awareness and water safety campaign - 'Respect the Water'. The pilot campaign is running throughout August in Sussex, Kent and Hampshire and aims to highlight the risks around the coast, with the long-term goal of reducing the number of incidents and fatalities.

To highlight the need for the campaign, the charity has revealed some key statistics about coastal fatalities:
- Around 150 people die around the UK coast each year - that's more than those killed in cycling accidents.
- This year alone, over 200 people have already lost their lives in the water, with many occurring in last month's heat wave.
- Six times more men drown around the coast each year than women.
- Key causes of coastal drownings are rip currents; cold water shock; slips, trip and falls; alcohol and fatigue.
- A rip can travel at 4.5mph1 - that's almost the same speed as an Olympic swimmer.
- Cold water shock can occur in any temperature below 15oc. The average sea temperature in the UK is just 12oc.
- General waterside activities like coastal walking resulting in slips, trips and falls, account for around 28 (19%) coastal deaths each year2.
- Alcohol was a contributing factor in 27 coastal fatalities last year3.
As the sun continues to shine and the temperatures remain high, many of us will head to the water to cool down and relax. The charity realises people want to have fun when they visit the coast, but it is reminding them that the coast can be a dangerous environment - even for the most experienced coastal visitors.

The campaign, which offers key safety tips, has a particular focus on men aged 25-65, as this demographic represents the biggest number of fatalities.

On Friday 9th August, the RNLI launched the Respect the Water campaign at the East Street Bastion on Brighton Beach.  They invited people to come down to take the Respect the Water Punchbag Challenge to see how quickly they tire against 250kg (quarter of a tonne) of water. The punchbag challenge reinforces the message that water never tires, but people do - even the strongest and most competent swimmers can tire quickly in the sea, especially in the cold UK waters .

The charity also had a cubic metre of water - weighing one tonne - on display, to help people realise how heavy a relatively small volume of water is.

Ross Macleod, RNLI coastal safety manager, says, "The British seaside is so popular - especially in the good weather we've been enjoying recently - but, it's crucial to stay safe and remember key safety advice so you can enjoy it properly. That's why we have launched the Respect the Water campaign - to raise awareness of drowning and water safety, ultimately reducing the number of people who lose their lives at the coast."

Key causes of coastal fatalities in the UK are: rip currents; cold water shock; slips, trip and falls; alcohol and fatigue.

The RNLI's top tips for staying safe at the coast:
- Choose a lifeguarded beach and swim between the red and yellow flags
- Remember that despite warm air temperatures, the water is still cold. Acclimatise gradually in shallow water
- Cold water can drain body heat very quickly so wear suitable thermal protection (a wetsuit will also provide some additional buoyancy)
- Never swim in the sea alone
- Don't over-estimate your ability. The sea is a very different swimming environment to a pool - even the strongest and most competent swimmers can tire quickly in the sea
- Don't swim too far out of your depth
- If you get caught in a rip current: don't panic. Don't try to swim against it or you'll get exhausted. If you can stand, wade -- don't swim. If you can, swim parallel to the shore until free of the rip and then head for shore; raise your hand and shout for help
- When at the coast, stay away from the edge of cliffs, stick to marked pathways and read safety signage
- Alcohol and water don't mix - don't drink and drown. If you want a drink, do it after swimming, not before.

James Haskell attempted the The Respect the Water Punchbag Challenge and tonne of water will on Brighton Pier this morning and managed 3.43 minutes (although he said he could have carried on but he didn't want people to get bored). The punchbag will stay on the seafront from the 10th - 17th August, before being taken to two other well known beaches across the South East - Southsea from the 18th - 24th August and Margate from the 25th - 31st August. Throughout this period, The Punchbag Challenge and tonne of water will be available for the public to engage with.