National Water Safety Forum



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NWSF Newsletter - September 2023


Message from the Chair

Weather wise, it’s been a changeable summer: a hot June, a wet July, a variable August and a hot September (So far!). No doubt that will correlate with the incident data when we analyse the summer months.

It’s also obvious when looking at the latest domestic tourism figures that the cost of living crisis and higher inflation have had a bearing on chosen destinations for summer holidays, with many families choosing to remain in the UK.

World Drowning Prevention Day (WDPD) was held on the 25 July, and I want to offer my thanks to all members and organisations that worked hard to support the day. It certainly got a lot of press and media coverage! 

To coincide with WDPD, I was very pleased to join the Black Swimming Association (BSA), along with other organisations’ leaders and several foreign ambassadors at No. 10 Downing Street, to focus on the specific issue of ethnicity and drowning. If you haven’t yet caught up with the BSA’s report, #OurSwimStory, it’s a thought-provoking read.

As I write this, many young people are heading off to start university or college in unfamiliar cities. It’s an important time to re-emphasise some key messages, particularly about looking after friends on a night out and enjoying Fresher’s events, so we’ll be doing some messaging around that.

Finally, in my capacity as the National Fire Chiefs Council UK lead for drowning prevention, I will have taken part in a Water Safety & Water Rescue Twitter Talk on the 13 September, where I was joined by other water safety ambassadors.

I hope you find our regular newsletter informative and while it may feel early to start thinking about the nights “drawing in,” our communications group are already beginning to shift their attention to winter water safety messaging. 

Dawn Whittaker

Chair, NWSF



Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) welcomes a new CEO


Virginia McVea joined the MCA in April as new CEO, to oversee the work of the agency as it responds to tens of thousands of incidents at sea every year, inspects thousands of UK-registered ships, and protects over 11,000 miles of our coastline.

View the press release here.


Water Safety Debate


MPs debated water safety and drowning prevention on Thursday 13 July in the main House of Commons chamber.

During the debate, a small group of MPs discussed how to reduce cases of death by drowning, including by increasing education on water safety in schools. This adjournment debate was led by Rob Butler MP.



Swimming and water safety in schools

The 2019 School Sport and Activity Action Plan set out a cross-government commitment to collaborate at a national level to ensure that PE and sport are an integral part of both the school day and after-school activities.

An update on the plan’s progress was published in July 2023, including information on how swimming and water safety are being embedded in primary schools.

You can read the report here.


British Empire Medal awarded to water safety campaigner, Andrea Corrie

Since the loss of her son, who drowned in the River Thames, aged 19, in 2005, Andrea has tirelessly campaigned for better riverside safety, teaming up with the RNLI and the Fire and Rescue Service. She has been dedicated in her work to warn people of the dangers of water and what they can do if they see someone in trouble.

This work saw Andrea being awarded a British Empire Medal in the New Year’s Honours list. NWSF congratulates Andrea on her award as she continues raising awareness of the dangers of water.

You can read more about Andrea’s work here.




World Drowning Prevention Day

Watch the WHO Global Celebration video here.

UK Overview

WDPD saw lots of activity from a wide range of organisations to promote water safety. Events took place all over the UK, including in Manchester, the West Midlands, Norfolk and Bristol, to name but a few. Several notable buildings and monuments went “blue” in support of the cause: the Liver Building, Blackpool Tower, Clacton Pier, The Lowery and Skelmersdale Light Cube – it was an overwhelming response to the call to action.

Members of the Forum also lent their services in interviews to national and regional media stations, which really helped widen the reach of our messaging.

The Forum would like to thank all our members and partners who were involved in the day – we commend your efforts to promote water safety in your communities.

Scotland Overview

In Scotland, Water Safety Scotland collaborated with RoSPA, Scottish Water, Scottish Canals, Police Scotland and Scottish Fire and Rescue Service to host its second Water Safety Open Day. The event was held at Helix Park, Falkirk – home to the famous Kelpies. The day was well attended, with an estimated 3,000 people and 20 stand holder organisations. Demonstrations included Newfoundland dogs and the Scottish Ambulance Service demonstrating emergency response to water rescue.

Feedback from visitors and stand holders has been overwhelmingly positive. One visitor summarised the activities as follows: “How to stay safe around water, how organisations like the RNLI and the Fire Service rescue people, that it’s never too late to learn to swim, how to do CPR, what to do if you fall into water.” Stand holders were equally enthusiastic: “I feel that this is an excellent way to share such an important message. Long may this event continue.”

Wales Overview

Water Safety Wales’ main WDPD event was at Llys-y-frân reservoir in Pembrokeshire and was hosted by Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water.

As the sun shone, the event showcased the equipment and skills of various emergency services and organisations, gave members of the public a chance to get hands on and learn about water safety, and highlighted the work being done by Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water to encourage safe participation in water sports at Llys-y-frân.

Several social media influencers and mainstream media were also present to spread the lifesaving messages of WDPD to new and diverse audiences. This included articles published by all the main Welsh media outlets.

Water Safety Wales also used WDPD to launch a report written with Public Health Wales highlighting the problem of drowning in children and young people in Wales. You can read more about this report later in the newsletter.

Chris Cousens – Chair of Water Safety Wales – extends a big thank you to everyone involved in making the event so successful, especially Hope Filby from Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water for setting things up and hosting so expertly, and to Carli Newell, who tragically lost her son Zac to drowning last year. Carli did many interviews and brilliantly supported the WDPD event with the help of the Forever 11 Charity set up in Zac’s, as well as supporting the aforementioned report.

To support the event, buildings also turned blue – including the Welsh Government’s CP1 building in Cardiff. Events also took place in Cardiff Bay, Bangor, Wrexham and Pontymoile Basin, and messages were shared on social media.


Don't Drink and Drown


RLSS UK will be running the first of its two 2023 'Don’t Drink and Drown' campaigns this month between 18 and 24 September.

'Don’t Drink and Drown' is RLSS UK’s national campaign that encourages smart decision-making around water after drinking, particularly targeting individuals to be responsible for their friends if they have had too much to drink, helping them to return home safely.


Every year, RLSS UK staff, partners and volunteers carry out activities and events in towns and cities that have experienced a particularly high number of alcohol-related drownings.

September’s campaign aims to target those who will be heading off or returning to university, while December’s campaign, 11–17 December, will focus on those who are enjoying meeting up with friends around the festive period.

To download resources for the campaign, visit here.

Thank you in advance for your support. 


Float to Live


The RNLI’s life-saving Float to Live campaign has been running all summer, with brand new campaign materials underpinned by research carried out by the University of Portsmouth’s Extreme Environment Laboratory (EEL), which tested people floating in still and moving water, in both fresh and salt water environments.

The research showed that floating is different for everyone: while some people naturally float with little movement, others require gentle use of their hands (sculling) and legs to stay afloat. It also showed that tilting the head back to submerge the ears is key.

These findings have been used to make subtle improvements to the messaging and the campaign materials.

These include social media posts, posters and a print-at-home ‘Float’ pocket guide, which are free and available for partners to use here.


Research and reports

Water-related fatalities in children and young people under 25 years of age, Wales, 2013-2022

Public Health Wales, under its Child Death Review Programme, and in conjunction with Water Safety Wales and RoSPA, released their report Water-related fatalities in children and young people under 25 years of age, Wales, 2013–2022 on WDPD. You can access the report here.

Last year saw a rise in drowning incidents in this age group in Wales, and it is hoped the report will provide a solid evidence base to support organisations working to prevent such incidents.


RLSS UK National Drowning Report UK 2022


2023 saw the launch of the first UK National Drowning Report from the Water Safety All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), authored by RLSS UK, and supported by NWSF.

The inaugural report provides a tangible picture of accidental drownings in the UK and uses data from the Water Incident Database (WAID) as well as other reliable data sources to provide the UK government with evidence-backed insights on why the approach to drowning prevention needs to be improved.

Since its launch, the report has been referenced in Parliament and widely reported on in the media. Thank you to everyone who contributed towards the report.

Download the report here.


NCMD report launched

July saw the launch of another report in the form of the National Child Mortality Database (NCMD) Deaths of children and young people due to traumatic incidents.

The report, co-authored by RLSS UK, shows that there has been a sharp increase in child drownings in England, with children from minority ethnic groups and families from deprived areas most at risk.

The report marks the first time that data has been available which classifies child drowning fatalities based on ethnicity and deprivation levels and highlights that the government must urgently address the inadequacies that are evident when looking at the current approach within education for swimming and class-based water safety.

Read the report here.


Investigating the spatial clustering of drowning of drowning events in the United Kingdom: A geospatial cross-sectional study

A cluster analysis study carried out by researchers at Leeds Trinity University (UK), Bournemouth University (UK), University of Portsmouth (UK) and University of Canterbury (New Zealand) has just been published.

Read the study here.


WAID2 - project update

WAID2 is a system designed to help NWSF members better understand serious water-related incidents and to make data-backed decisions when it comes to drowning prevention strategies. The new service is a re-development of the legacy WAID system and brings together drowning and other water-related incident data from several data-sharing partners and other data providers.

What have been the key deliverables on the project to date?

The project has focused on building the framework and mechanisms to efficiently collect incident data as and when it becomes available. The infrastructure and key components have been built alongside a new application (Power App) for capturing manual incident records and supporting data, while also helping to support processes around capturing details from coroners’ inquests. The core delivery is close to completion – further updates will be coming soon!


NWSF flooding advice

Flooding risk is increasing due to climate change and it’s increasingly likely that the UK will experience more frequent flooding.

With this in mind, the NWSF has produced a document which provides comprehensive advice for the public in a flooding incident.

Download the document here.


Events and opportunities


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