Image – Bob Clark, Chair of the Royal Life Saving Society’s 125th Anniversary Steering Committee, presents RLSS Commonwealth President, HRH Prince Michael of Kent GCVO, with a copy of the Society’s Survival Swimming Guide.

The Royal Life Saving Society, of which the Royal Lifesaving Society UK is a part and founding member, has launched an ambitious campaign marking its 125th Anniversary in 2016: the development and extension of Survival Swimming initiatives in every Commonwealth country in which it operates.

Survival Swimming, which covers the necessary actions to help ensure people can survive an unexpected fall into deep water, is a vital skill both for leisure swimmers and those who live, work and travel on water.

To aid instructors, RLSS has developed a Survival Swimming Guide, which is available on its website* for all Member Branches and other organisations to use.

Drowning is one of the biggest preventable causes of death in the world today, responsible for the deaths of around 373,000 people worldwide. Survival Swimming skills include being able to roll into deep water and surface with the head above water; keeping the head above water for 30 to 90 seconds; and swimming in a controlled manner for 10 to 50 metres.

Several RLSS member branches already have well established Survival Swimming programmes in their country, including Canada, St Lucia, Bangladesh, India and Australia. In St Lucia, for example, 21 out of the country’s 24 swimming and lifesaving instructors have committed to teaching ‘Swim to Survive’.

The challenge for the RLSS in 2016 and beyond is to bring Survival Swimming skills to everyone in the Commonwealth via RLSS instructors and other drowning prevention organisations.

“Drowning impacts disproportionately on children and people in poorer countries with over 90% of deaths by drowning occurring in low and middle income countries,” said RLSS deputy Commonwealth president, Clive Holland.

“The World Health Organisation’s 2014 Global Report on Drowning outlined Ten Actions to Prevent Drowning**, and many of these actions are supported by the development of Survival Swimming initiatives.

“Our Member Branches in 27 Commonwealth countries are encouraged to work with other countries and organisations to establish new initiatives and build upon existing Survival Swimming.

“There could no greater legacy we can leave from our 125th Anniversary year than a significant reduction in the number of deaths by drowning throughout the Commonwealth, and we sincerely hope that our Survival Swimming campaign will help bring this about.”