We are once again delighted by what seems, from early evaluation, to have been a very successful Drowning Prevention Week (DPW).

Last year, thanks to our supporters and members, we educated nearly 2 million people through practical water safety training, mostly in schools or leisure centres. This year we revelled in the challenge to build on that success and continue playing a crucial role in educating communities, across the UK and Ireland. As you are well-aware, like most plans in 2020, we had to rethink the delivery of the campaign and innovate, so that we could find new ways to reach communities across the home nations.

To sum up this year’s campaign here’s a blog for you to enjoy.

Practical training plays a key part in all RLSS UK initiatives - our ultimate aim is to encourage as many people as possible to access practical training, through RLSS UK clubs and Approved Training Centres (ATCs). Any level of practical training through schools, clubs and leisure centres, no matter how short the session, builds safer communities and increases the chance of effective rescue and intervention at a local level. RLSS UK clubs provide the environment to breed the most skilled lifesavers, acquiring myriad skills through their training over many years. Clubs act as feeders into leisure centres so they in turn, can train a world-class lifeguard team. As we look to move into a phase of recovery that will involve planning for clubs so practical lifesaving classes can resume, the Charity will do all it can to encourage the vast number of people we have engaged during DPW, into practical training.

During our campaigning, RLSS UK has been increasingly using digital media, as you’d expect. We are sensitive to speed of change in our communications and how for some of our members, these new and evolving methods of communication present a challenge. Nevertheless, it is important in our planning that we continue to move with the times, innovate and utilise the most up-to-date methods of communicating, to reach the widest possible audience.

The existing mix of practical training and digital media has for many years, proved successful in delivering a wide-reaching DPW campaign. When the formal figures were released in May, we were delighted to discover that the number of suspected accidental drowning incidents, had reduced a further 12 per cent year-on-year in 2019.

We can confidently state that our campaigns and effective partnerships, coupled with the passion and dedication behind them, contribute to specifically reducing this number, and we should be unashamed about saying so.

This year however, has been very different; we weren’t blessed with the opportunity for the Charity’s incredible supporters and members to get hands-on with training in their communities, and so we wanted to focus on how we could reach more people, predominantly by capitalising on the recent growth in digital communication. We provided key message templates, in a variety of formats for a variety of channels, this made it easy for supporters and partners to harness their own platforms and methods of communication to promote DPW.

The key question for RLSS UK as we planned the campaign was ‘how do we create messaging that encourages behaviour change in the UK and Irish public, so that they enjoy the water safely’, ultimately ensuring that risk is better managed and we see less fatal drowning incidents.

This year, we didn’t just have the challenge of accessing communities through schools and leisure centres: the easing of lockdown restrictions raised concerns about public euphoria leading to increased risk taking, the maintaining of social distance driving people into more secluded locations and the subsequent demand placed on all the emergency services. Consequently, this year we have been more explicit with our message, focusing on helping the public understand that it is their responsibility, to make sure they and their family make safe choices around water.

The groundwork that determined this year’s campaign communication resulted in a dual focus to engage the public; firstly, to understand, appreciate and respect the risks present around water and secondly, educating people on what the right decisions are to prevent an incident occurring, and respond correctly should an emergency arise. It was agreed that, the provision of easily accessible, eye-catching, shareable tools, would be the best way to try and secure maximum engagement.

With practical, hands-on training opportunities unavailable this year, we created online lessons for children and families instead. Using all touchpoints (website, Twitter etc.), we encouraged making use of the increased time at home to learn essential lifesaving information. Our communications included video content that we posted on social media, focused specifically on what actions to take during an emergency, including:

  • Reacting to sudden immersion in cold water
  • Knowing to call 999 and who to ask for in different scenarios
  • Basic survival
  • Basic land-based rescue

There was a remarkable amount of engagement across social media and to date, we are delighted with the outcomes so far:

  • Over 20,000 lessons have been accessed
  • We reached nearly 6 million through social media engagement
  • We have 184 number of pieces published in newspaper, tv, radio and online
  • We have reached nearly 21 million through press

With coverage always continuing outside of the campaign week of action, we know these numbers will increase as we collate the final few elements of evaluation.

We are extremely grateful to our RLSS UK family and the wider water safety community for their support throughout the campaign and beyond. It is the number of people behind RLSS UK and how they rally around the cause to keep the public enjoying water safely, that secures the delivery of our crucial messages and advice, far and wide.

From everyone at RLSS UK, thank you.