RLSS UK Communications Intern, Anna talks Drowning Prevention Week 2015

I love swimming, but I can’t really remember learning to swim. It feels instinctive now, yet swimming is a learned skill. Like many children, my little sister and I were very young when we were taught by our instructor Jerry. Being young was no barrier to learning such an important skill.

As we know, young children don’t always realise when they are safe or in danger. This is especially true of water-related situations. I remember never understanding why we weren’t allowed in the stream at the bottom of my garden, why my parents had fenced it off. I knew how to swim, surely it didn’t matter how deep the water was?

Now it seems obvious, as the water was cold and dirty, the stream deep and there was a surprisingly fast current. But it is easy to say this retrospectively! This is why it is so important to teach children and families as a whole how to stay safe, but still have fun, in water.

I work for the Royal Life Saving Society UK now, and sadly every year we hear of drowning incidents that could have been prevented. One person dies every 20 hours in the UK, and drowning is also the third highest cause of accidental death of children in the UK. It is our goal to cut down the number of drowning and near drowning incidents that happen.

In order to increase awareness, we started a national campaign called Drowning Prevention Week, which this year runs from the 20th to the 28th of June. The campaign is predominantly aimed at children, teaching them vital water safety information for them to take with them into adult life.

During Drowning Prevention Week, water safety is promoted in schools, leisure centres, local communities, businesses and widely through the media. We produce free resources to deliver our water safety messages, such as lesson plans, pool session plans, films, games and activities, posters and safety leaflets.

Our Drowning Prevention Week campaign also aims to raise money to help develop the charity’s year round drowning prevention work, and we welcome donations and fundraising activity.

It’s an engaging, informative and fun week for everyone, especially the children we teach. The Royal Life Saving Society UK, the drowning prevention charity, wants everyone to have fun in the water. I’m certainly not giving up swimming! But it’s really important to know how to be safe in any type of body of water, which is why I think it is integral our message is heard.

Drowning Prevention Week isn’t just aimed at keen swimmers or vulnerable children though. In the UK, a large majority of those that drown never intended to be in the water, such as those out for a run or walk that accidently fall in.

It’s not unreasonable to believe that if public was truly educated about water and drowning prevention, a large number of these deaths would not happen. For instance, we think if everyone knew our SAFE Code, we can reduce the number of preventable, accidental drowning deaths.

SAFE code:

Spot – Spot the dangers

  • Check for hazards such as currents or deep water
  • Consider what could be hidden under the water
  • Be careful of unsafe banks, stay well back from the edge

Advice – Take advice

  • Always read the signs
  • Only swim where there is a lifeguard
  • Wear buoyancy aids and life jackets

Friend – Go with a friend

  • Always swim with friends or family
  • Friends can get help
  • Never swim alone

Emergency – Know what to do in an emergency

  • Find the nearest phone and call 999
  • Shout loudly to attract attention
  • Never enter the water to save someone

There are many ways you can get involved with Drowning Prevention Week, and to educate yourself and your family. Visit the water safety section on our website www.rlss.org.uk for all resources and to find out how you can help:

  • Display and distribute water safety leaflets and posters
  • Show and share our Youtube films
  • Fundraise or hold collections in aid of RLSS UK
  • Retweet water safety messages on Twitter and Facebook

Our Chief Executive, Di Steer said: “We can’t do it alone. We need everyone’s help to raise awareness about the reality of accidental drowning, and to get water safety at the forefront of people’s minds. We rely heavily on other organisations and groups to spread the word and we hope as many people as possible can get behind this year’s campaign.”

Water Babies has pledged their support to the campaign, as they too recognise the importance of teaching families how to have fun and stay safe near water. It is companies like Water Babies that make our job just that bit easier, especially by promoting learning swimming early.

I hope you and your family have a safe and enjoyable summer of swimming!

Anna x