Visitors heading to the Skegness coast for the Bank Holiday are being warned to fight their instincts to stay alive should they get into difficulties in the water.
New research commissioned by the RNLI has revealed that over half (of people in the north of England would follow a potentially life-threatening instinct if they fell unexpectedly into water.
Coastal fatality figures released today by the RNLI show 27 people lost their lives at the north of England resorts last year, with nearly half of those being people who didn’t even intend to enter the water.
Sudden immersion in cold water puts these people at severe risk of suffering cold water shock, triggering the instinctive but life-threatening reaction to gasp uncontrollably and swim hard, which can quickly lead to drowning.
Research involving 230 people that was commissioned by the RNLI shows four per cent would do nothing; two per cent would remove clothing; one per cent would hold their breath and five per cent would not know what to do.
As the RNLI’s national drowning prevention campaign Respect the Water enters its fourth year, the charity is calling on the public to fight their instincts and remember one core survival skill – floating – until the effects of cold water shock pass and you can catch your breath and try to swim to safety or call for help.
People will be flocking to the coast this weekend if the weather forecast is to be believed, and we want people to have a safe and enjoyable time at the seasideDarren Lewis, RNLI Lifesaving Delivery Manager in the north,
Overall, less than a fifth of respondents in the north alluded to a recommended first course of action, with just six per cent knowing specifically to float.
Mike Tipton, Professor of Human and Applied Physiology at the University of Portsmouth, said: “We often rely on our instincts but our instinctive response to sudden immersion in cold water – gasping, thrashing and swimming hard – is potentially a killer.
“It increases chances of water entering your lungs, increases the strain on your heart, cools the skin further and helps air escape from any clothing, which then reduces buoyancy.
“Although it’s counter-intuitive, the best immediate course of action in that situation is to fight your instinct and try to float or rest, just for a short time.
“The effects of cold water shock will pass quite quickly, within 60–90 seconds. Floating for this short time will let you regain control of your breathing and your survival chances will greatly increase.”
Darren Lewis, RNLI Lifesaving Delivery Manager in the north, said: “The simple advice we are sharing with our Respect the Water campaign could be the difference between life and death and we very much hope people will take notice and practice floating the next time they are in a pool – it could save their lives.
“People will be flocking to the coast this weekend if the weather forecast is to be believed, and we want people to have a safe and enjoyable time at the seaside.”
The charity’s lifeguards will start the majority of their patrols in the north of England from this Saturday. A seven-day-a-week service will then operate until early September with the lifeguards keeping a watchful eye between 10am and 6pm. Details for individual beaches can be found here: RNLI.org/lifeguards
n The Respect the Water campaign is targeted at adult men, who account for nearly three-quarters of the coastal deaths in the north over the past five years, and 63 per cent of last year’s coastal fatalities in the region, although the advice is relevant to anyone who goes near the water.
The recommended floating position is to lean back in the water and keep your airway clear. Keeping calm will help maintain buoyancy. Some people find it helpful to gently scull with their hands and kick their feet to keep afloat.
If you see someone else in danger in the water, fight your instinct to go in and try to rescue them yourself – instead call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.