Safety by the sea is the message from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s new campaign Respect The Water.
The aim is to increase awareness of the danger of drowing and the campaign was launched by rugby star James Haskell to run throughout August in Sussex, Kent and Hampshire to highlight the risks of living along the coast with the long-term goal of reducing the number of incidents and fatalities.
The RNLI says around 150 people die around the UK coast each year – more than those killed in cycling accidents - and this year alone over 200 people have already lost their lives.
Six times more men drown around the coast each year than women and key causes of coastal drownings are rip currents, cold water shock, slips, trip and falls, alcohol, and fatigue.
The campaign was launched at Brighton Beach where members of the public were invited down to take the Respect the Water Punchbag Challenge, to see how quickly they tire against 250kg (quarter of a tonne) of water. The Punchbag Challenge reinforced the message that water never tires, but people do – even the strongest and most competent swimmers can tire quickly in the sea, especially in the cold UK waters.
The charity also had a cubic metre of water – weighing one tonne – on display, to help people realise how heavy a relatively small volume of water is.
The RNLI’s suggests residents and visitors choose a lifeguarded beach and swim between the red and yellow flags, remember that despite warm air the water temperature is still cold, and that cold water can drain body heat very quickly so wear proper insulation such as a wetsuit.
Never swim in the sea alone, don’t over-estimate your swimming ability, and don’t swim too far out of your depth.
If you get caught in a rip current: don’t panic... if you can stand, wade don’t swim. If you can, swim parallel to the shore until free of the rip and then head for shore; raise your hand and shout for help.
When at the coast, stay away from the edge of cliffs, stick to marked pathways and read safety signage.
The Respect the Water Punchbag Challenge and tonne of water was available in Brighton this week before moving elsewhere in the South East.