The Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK), the drowning prevention charity, is urging people not to put their lives at risk and stay as safe as possible after Storm Desmond hit the UK and images in the media have shown some people underestimating the power of floodwater and stormy weather.

The storm brought 13.5 inches of rain in 24 hours and left more than 60,000 homes across North West without power due to the devastation caused by rapid flooding.

The Met Office has issued 46 severe flood warnings, 34 flood warnings and 32 flood alerts across the North East, North West and Midlands area of the country and RLSS UK is urging people to take advice.

The charity says it is vital that people don’t underestimate the dangers of floodwater. Safety around floodwater could mean the difference between life and death.

Just six inches of fast flowing water is enough to knock an adult over and two feet of water will float a car.

The warning also comes after footage showing two teenagers diving from a 20ft platform into rough seas as Storm Desmond hit Galway, Ireland hit social media and a body has been found in the search for an elderly man who fell into the River Kent on Sunday.

RLSS UK’s Chief Executive, Di Steer, said: “The news of a body being found in the search for an elderly man who fell into the River Kent on Sunday is devastating and our thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time.

“Drowning is not just a tragic outcome of accidents during hot, summer weather – winter weather, especially the flood waters caused by Storm Desmond can be extremely deadly.

“We have already seen severe weather and vast floodings across Cumbria and with more heavy rain predicted across the country we are asking people to make sure that they take care during very wet weather.

“These conditions can be dangerous and create a significant risk of drowning if safety advice is not followed. Don’t take risks and certainly do not go anywhere near floodwater unless absolutely necessary.”

RLSS UK warns care should be taken not just around swollen rivers but near general floodwater on roads and pathways too.

“It is often tempting to take a look at rivers at their peak but it can be dangerous,” Di Steer added.

“But it’s not just these areas of water which can cause problems. Floodwater on roads and paths can be deeper and more powerful than it looks and people can easily fall or be knocked over.

“We would ask people to follow our simple advice to help ensure they and their families stay safe.”


RLSS UK’s Advice:


  • Never try to walk or drive through floodwater – six inches of fast flowing water can knock an adult over and two feet of water will float a car
  • Never try to swim through fast flowing water or flood water – you may get swept away or be struck or caught up in an object in the water
  • Never allow children or pets to go near or play in flood water. It is hazardous and may be contaminated with chemicals
  • Keep an eye on weather reports for flooding in your area. Do not travel in heavy rainstorms unless absolutely necessary
  • Prepare a flood kit in case your home floods or you are trapped in a vehicle for any period– this can contain a change of clothing, wellies, waterproofs and blankets as well as a torch, charged mobile, radio, medication and a first aid kit and a list of useful numbers, including flood alert lines


Should your car enter floodwater:


  • Call for help, remove seatbelt and release any children from their seats
  • Turn on all the lights and sound the horn to attract attention (only if this won’t delay your escape)
  • If the water level is low – open the windows and stay in the car
  • If the water level is high – escape out of the windows, sunroof or doors onto the roof of the car. Stay with the car. If the car starts to move quickly with the water flow, get off the car, stay upstream from the car, and swim vigorously to safety
  • If the water is entering the car – escape out of the windows, sunroof or doors (breaking windows if necessary). Stay upstream from the car, and swim vigorously to safety
  • If you cannot escape, call and signal for help. Turn on all of the lights and sound the horn