Published 25 July 2023

People Urged to #RespectTheWater and Avoid ‘Double Trouble’ this summer

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The National Water Safety Forum (NWSF) is encouraging people to learn the three-step rescue guide for water-related emergencies as the summer holidays start and the UK supports World Drowning Prevention Day on 25th July.

As summer holidaymakers begin gravitating towards the UK’s rivers, lakes and seas, the Forum is appealing to every boater, bather and waterside walker to ‘Respect the Water’ and ‘Call, Tell, Throw’ if they encounter an emergency situation.

World Drowning Prevention Day on 25th July is set to bring the potential gravity of water-related accidents and their consequences into sharp relief. To underpin its messaging the NWSF is urging everybody who plans to spend time in, on or alongside bodies of water to avoid ‘double trouble’ by disregarding their gut instinct to take the plunge and attempt their own rescue of someone who is in difficulty. Sadly, those who do so all too often double the casualty toll, and it is their plight which has given rise to the NWSF’s three-step rescue guide.

#RespecttheWater is the partnership campaign run by the NWSF and aims to provide simple life saving advice to help members of the public take personal responsibility for their own and their family’s safety, with a focus on knowing how to help other people in trouble.

In the event that someone is in trouble in the water, the best way to help is by staying calm, staying on land, and remember the three-step rescue guide – Call, Tell, Throw:

  • Call 999 – ask for Fire & Rescue if inland waters or coastguard at the coast.
  • Tell the struggling person to float on their back.
  • Throw them something that floats.

According to the latest World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates, drowning is the cause of 235,000 deaths globally every year. In 2022, accidental drowning claimed the lives of 226 people in the UK, equating to around 38% of the 597 water-related fatalities recorded here last year. A common misconception is that many incidents of this kind take place in our seas, but last year over 60% of deaths occurred inland in environments such as rivers, canals, reservoirs and lakes.

Unsurprisingly, almost 50% of the UK’s accidental drownings in 2022 took place in the height of summer, underscoring the need for a timely reminder of the potential danger of taking to the water, and the proactive and reactive measures that can be taken to mitigate it.

The Forum’s #RespectTheWater campaign supports the World Health Organisation’s ongoing call to action to ‘do’ one thing, ‘improve’ one thing or ‘add’ one thing to water safety and drowning prevention initiatives on World Drowning Prevention Day. Among the many pledges of support that will be made from individuals, groups, organisations and big companies, some will be more visible than others – across the country buildings and monuments will again turn blue to mark the occasion, and advocates will wear blue zinc sun cream to prompt wider conversations about water safety. No matter how big or small the show of support, all will be hugely beneficial in the fight against water-related fatalities.

Dawn Whittaker, NWSF Chair, CEO East Sussex Fire Rescue Service and Drowning Prevention Lead for the National Fire Chiefs Council said: “The height of summer is the flashpoint for water-related emergencies – just under half of the accidental drownings happened in the summer months of June, July and August in 2022 – so the importance of amplifying the messaging surrounding World Drowning Prevention Day really can’t be overstated.

“The #RespectTheWater campaign makes a significant contribution to that objective in the UK by impressing on the public just how crucial it is to understand the dangers before getting in the water, and by providing clear, step-by-step guidance on how to deal as effectively, and safely, as possible with an incident.

“Although the weather isn’t great right now, we’re appealing to people to make safe choices when the sun comes out. If you see someone struggling in the water: Call 999; Tell them to float on their back; Throw them something which floats. Anyone can drown, no one should.”

For more information about the National Water Safety Forum, visit

For more information about #RespectTheWater, visit