Most people won’t just stand by and do nothing while someone’s in trouble in the water. On a lifeguarded beach, in an emergency, you’d alert the lifeguards. But what do you do out of season or on holiday when there are no lifeguards and someone’s drowning?

Step 1. Keep alert

Don’t expect a casualty to be shouting for help. They may be struggling to breathe, and drowning looks very different to how it is portrayed in the movies.

If you’re not sure, shout: ‘Do you need help?’ If they say yes or don’t answer at all, it’s time to act.

shout for help

Step 2. Resist temptation

Don’t be tempted to go in. The water might be cold, which will limit your ability to swim. And whatever has caused the casualty to need help is likely to happen to you too. Stay well back from the edge.

resist temptation

Step 3. Call 999 or 112

Call the emergency services before you do anything else, so help will be on its way.

Or ask someone else to call while you try to help the casualty. If you’re alone without a phone, find someone who can call for help.

call 999

Step 4. Shout and signal

From the shore you have a better view of the area than the casualty. Shout and encourage them to reach a lifering in the water, a jetty, or a shallower area of water. Remind them to kick their legs.

shout and signal

5. Find a rescue aid

If there is a lifering, throw bag (filled with rope), or other public rescue aid equipment nearby, quickly read any instructions then throw it to the casualty.

If there is no public rescue aid equipment, throw anything that will float.

throw something that floats

Step 6. Safe rescue

Before you pull the casualty in, get down on one knee or lie down so you don’t fall in.

Remember, even if your rescue attempts fail, emergency services are on their way. Keep sight of the casualty to help the emergency services locate them quicker.

safe rescue

Watch our helpful videos:

Shout and Signal Rescue
Throwing Rescue
Reaching Rescue
Throw Bag Rescue
Water Safety Code