National Water Safety Forum



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June newsletter from the National Water Safety Forum

Message from the Chair

It is a huge honour to be appointed Chair of the National Water Safety Forum (NWSF).  I very much look forward to working with all agencies and members who are supporting water safety and drowning prevention, both in the UK and beyond.

For those who don’t know me, I have been part of the NWSF coordinating group since 2013 as the lead officer representing the National Fire Chief’s Council.

I was involved in the group that helped develop the UK Drowning Prevention Strategy and I was also previously Chair of the Board of Trustees for the Royal Lifesaving Society (RLSS).

In my day job as a Chief Fire Officer in East Sussex, I know all about prevention being better than the cure. This ethos underpins my advocacy for water safety and leads me to seek greater collaboration to achieve better outcomes, with a focus on risk.

I am also passionate about supporting families who have lost loved ones in the water and I remain in awe of the fantastic work they do to support the UK drowning prevention effort.

Inclusion is another key driver for me. I think everyone should be able to benefit from the physical and health benefits that can be gained from being in, on, and by the beautiful water locations in the UK.

I was born and bred in Wales, so I know a thing or two about beautiful rugged coasts and glorious inland lakes and rivers, making me equally committed to both being safe to visit for all.

I hope to meet and engage with many of you during the coming months. However, please be assured that if we don’t get to meet, I will be working hard with the other members of the NWSF co-ordinating group to ensure the delivery of our collaborative aims.

You may have noticed a few changes to the format of this newsletter, if you have any feedback or suggestions please do not hesitate to contact

As a final note, on behalf of all members of the NWSF I would like to thank our previous Chair, George Rawlinson MBE, for his dedication and service.


Until next time,
Dawn Whittaker
Chair of the National Water Safety Forum.

Accidental drowning figures 2020

The water incident database (WAID) figures for 2020 are now available.

Key accidental drowning death WAID insights include:

1. Inland open waters, such as rivers, canals, lakes, reservoirs and quarries continue to be the leading locations for accidental drowning and unintended entry into the water with a total of 58% (N=139).

2. Males continue to over represent with 78% of deaths (N=199).

3. Almost half (43%) of people had no intention to enter the water, such as those walking, with causes including slips, trips and falls, being cut off by the tide, or swept in by waves (N= 107).

You can access the figures via our new interactive report, which allows users to visualise water-related incidents by local authority area, as well as explore how demographic factors, such as age and gender, impact on accidental drowning and unintentional entry into open water.

The interactive report contains information relating to UK water incidents that were reported between 2014-2020.


Speaking with one voice: #RespectTheWater

Following a concerning increase in water-related deaths in 2020, over 50 organisations, for the first time, issued coordinated water safety advice for those visiting and enjoying waterways and coastlines as part of the #RespectTheWater campaign. This joint campaign, run by the NWSF, aims to reduce the number of water-related deaths and accidents.

In a call to action, members of the NWSF are asking everyone to support and promote the national #RespectTheWater campaign, to reduce drowning this summer. You can find the branding guidelines here.

The national campaign aims to provide simple lifesaving advice, which can help members of the public take personal responsibility for their own, and for their family’s safety by remembering these lifesaving tips:

1. If you get into trouble in the water, Float to Live. Lean back and use your arms and legs to help you float, then get control of your breathing before calling for help or swimming to safety.

2. If you see someone else in trouble in the water, call 999 or 112. If you are at the coast ask for the coastguard, if you are inland, ask for the fire service.

At present several organisations have already adopted the Respect The Water campaign. Respect The Water messaging will feature in the Royal Life Saving Society's Drowning Prevention Week (19th-26th June) and was mentioned in The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and Her Majesty’s (HM) Coastguard joint beach safety campaign.

The NWSF marketing and communication group has been re-established and will soon be looking at the longer-term campaign strategy. If anyone wants to contribute ideas please contact the RTW email address (


UN Resolution on Drowning Prevention

For the first time in its 75 year history, the United Nations (UN) has adopted a resolution on drowning prevention. Initiated by Bangladesh and Ireland, and co-sponsored by 79 countries, the resolution recognises the devastating effect of drowning across the world. This will also see the first-ever World Drowning Prevention Day which will be held on July 25.

The UN’s resolution has been passed by the General Assembly and affirms the fact that drowning is preventable and stresses the need for member states to have a coordinated response. The resolution requests all 193 Member States of the United Nations to do the following:

1. Appoint a national focal point for drowning prevention
2. Develop a national drowning prevention plan
3. Develop drowning prevention programming in line with the WHO’s recommendations
4. Ensure enactment and effective enforcement of water safety laws
5. Encourage the registration of drowning deaths
6. Promote drowning prevention public awareness

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Coastal Working Group: Quarterly Recap

As we enter the busy summer season – ahead of a year predicted to be like no other – the National Water Safety Forum’s Coastal Group met virtually in May to reflect on the progress made to date.

To name but a few highlights: The National Water Safety Forum were pleased to share the updated version of the COVID 19 beach safety guidance for local authorities, owners, managers and operators.

The annual, upcoming Maritime Safety Week campaign (5-9 July) – a central government initiative for maritime safety – was discussed and the potential for joined up activity and roundtables, with a particular emphasis this year on beach safety.

The working group will meet again in early September to reflect on the summer.


Drowning Prevention Week

Between June 19-26, The Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK) will be running their annual awareness-raising campaign: Drowning Prevention Week.

Drowning Prevention Week (DPW) aims to equip everybody across the UK and Ireland with the skills and knowledge, to make the right decisions about water safety.

Throughout 2020 and 2021, millions of children have missed out on vital swimming, lifesaving skills, and water safety education during the pandemic due to pool closures, leaving a dramatic gap in school swimming and water safety education.

RLSS UK believes that through free, accessible education and training, everyone can enjoy water safely, have fun in the water and develop an essential life skill. We urge as many partners as possible to encourage parents and carers to get involved with the campaign, use free online resources, and lessons and give children the skills to enjoy a lifetime of fun in the water.

The campaign includes a series of social media resources, available in both English and Welsh, to help share vital messages.





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