National Water Safety Forum



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NWSF Newsletter - December 2023


Message from the Chair

As I write this, it’s still November… and it’s still raining. 

We’ve seen flooding across the UK caused by storms Babet and Ciarán and, sadly, some loss of life. In my day job (Emergency Services), it never ceases to amaze me that many people try to drive through floodwater in vehicles and get stuck, while others head to the coast to try to capture dramatic photos of waves crashing against piers and coastlines, only to underestimate the risk and get swept off their feet or, worse, into the sea!

At this time of the year, therefore, we need to spread the word about winter water safety, and in this newsletter you can read updates on forthcoming campaigns that can help get the message across. Gathering data and intelligence, and conducting research, continue to be important for NWSF, and we’re pleased to be collaborating with the IDRA (International Drowning Research Alliance) and the WHO (World Health Organization), and we’ll continue to do so into 2024 through our membership. It’s also important that we work with academic institutions and government departments to keep abreast of the opportunities ahead. For example, we know that several government departments are working together to assess the impacts of extreme weather and, of course, weather and raised temperatures have an important bearing on water safety.

The NWSF Co-ordinating group have recently met, and you can follow up on their work on the website.  We’re in very early stages of discussions to build on the success of WSS (Water Safety Scotland) and WSW (Water Safety Wales) by seeking to collaborate with partners to create WSNI (Water Safety Northern Ireland). We’re also starting to consider a refresh of the UK Drowning Prevention Strategy early next year. So, if you’re involved in an advisory group, I encourage you to gather your thoughts on how we can best do this.

Finally, as this is the last newsletter of 2023, I would like to wish you all seasonal greetings, peace, and time with those you care about this Christmas.

Dawn Whittaker

Chair, NWSF


Research and conferences

Spatial clustering of drowning in the UK


Dr Martin Barwood and colleagues have released research which examines the spatial clustering of intentional and unintentional drownings using density-based spatial clustering of applications with the noise method.

You can read their research paper here.


A conceptual definition of drowning prevention

Justin-Paul Scarr and Dr Jagnoor Jagnoor recently published a research paper on the development of a conceptual definition of drowning prevention using the Delphi method.

You can read their paper here.


Local authority approaches to managing water safety - A 10-year comparative analysis (Scotland)

RoSPA has released research which looks at local authority approaches to water safety. Originally undertaken in 2013, and again in 2018, the research has been repeated to gain insight in 2023. The research shows a positive increase in the majority of indicators since 2013.

You can read the report here.


Drowning and Incident Review Presentations

Carlene McAvoy (RoSPA) and James Sullivan (SFRS) attended the 11th European Conference on Injury Prevention and Safety Promotion, held in Reykjavik, Iceland, on 05–06 October. Carlene and James presented their innovative work on drowning prevention in Scotland, in particular the Drowning and Incident Review (DIR).

They also presented on DIR at the Physiological Society’s Conference on Drowning Prevention and Treatment in late October.




World Health Organisation's Global Report for Drowning Prevention

In May this year, the World Health Assembly adopted its first-ever resolution on drowning prevention. This resolution calls on governments and their partners, in collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO), to accelerate action on drowning prevention with immediate effect. The resolution also requests the WHO to prepare a global status report on drowning prevention.

The report, which will be the first of its kind, will measure the country-specific magnitude of drowning, as well as the implementation of evidence-based intervention to prevent and respond to drowning. NWSF was designated to collate a response on behalf of the UK as a whole.

To read more about the report and the UK response, read the blog on the RoSPA website.


World Conference on Drowning Prevention

NWSF members Ross MacLeod, David Walker, Lee Heard and Martin Barwood presented a number of papers from the UK at the World Conference on Drowning Prevention on 04–07 December in Perth, Australia.

Ross presented on “Using research and evidence to drive the RNLI’s lifesaving Float to Live drowning prevention campaign,” together with “Lessons from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s (RNLI) approach to the challenge of responding to incidents involving water-based suicide and people in mental health crisis across the UK & Ireland”.

David presented on “How the UK National Water Safety Forum (UK NWSF) agreed to ‘Do One Thing’ on World Drowning Prevention Day (WDPD) 2022, and lessons learnt from uniting 50 organisations behind the UK’s largest ever drowning prevention campaign”.

Lee presented on “Methodology to navigate the complex UK political environment, including the mechanism of an All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Water Safety”.

Martin presented on “Identifying risk factors for fatal UK drownings: an evidence base to inform key steps of the WHO drowning prevention implementation guide” and “Alcohol outlets, crimes and drowning: a geospatial study of England and Wales from 2012–2019”.


New guidance

The NWSF Inland and Coastal Groups will shortly be releasing guidance document on how to set up a Water Safety Partnership. The document brings together three approaches to creating a water safety group, the six key elements to consider when setting up a group, as well as four case studies from across the UK.

The document will be launched at a webinar on 24 January 2024. You can register for the webinar here.



Campaign updates

Respect The Water

The Respect The Water (RTW) working group held a meeting in Birmingham on 19 October to plan the optimisation of the campaign programme over the next two years.

One of the notable discussions was around messaging and how to take it to the next level.

A decision was made was to rebrand the 999 campaign message and change it to “Call, Tell, Throw”, the next step to help people react to someone in the water.

Over the next few weeks, media assets on the RTW website will be amended to reflect this new messaging.

In the coming months, the group will be looking at amplifying existing stakeholder campaigns, such as “Don’t Drink and Drown” and plans to launch more “media moments” to raise water safety awareness around the subjects of cold/warm weather, flooding and alcohol.

Finally, a reminder… if you’re looking to raise water safety awareness over the winter months, please make use of our updated winter social media assets which include ice safety.


Don't Drink and Drown

We’re currently just over halfway through RLSS UK’s Don’t Drink and Drown campaign; thank you for your support so far this week and let’s keep up the momentum! You might have noticed that we’ve changed the look and feel of the campaign for December, with some brighter graphics and Christmas-themed posts.

You might have noticed that we’ve changed the look and feel of the campaign for December, with some brighter graphics and Christmas-themed posts. We’ll have more new posts to share over the next few days. 

As we continue with the messaging, please head to the various RLSS UK socials and share as far and wide as possible so that we can spread the word to “Be a Mate” and encourage everyone to find a safe route home away from the water.

If you’ll be taking part in any events for Don’t Drink and Drown, or if you’ve already done so, don’t forget to tag @RLSSUK on socials and send any images to


Float to Live

RNLI needs your vote!

RNLI’s Float to Live 2023 film is in the running for the Smiley Charity Film Awards and needs your help to get to the next round. Just a few clicks are needed to sign up, vote and share (all for free) to help RNLI get to the next stage. 

Vote here


Update on RLSS UK’s work with GoodSAM

RLSS UK has worked with GoodSAM since 2018, helping connect first responders to those experiencing a medical emergency. The partnership has now taken another step to help save even more lives and the app has been further developed to include locations of water rescue equipment in and around towns and cities to allow first responders to locate them quickly.

If you’ve already registered as a first responder on the app, or if you have the appropriate first-aid qualifications and intend to register, we encourage you to begin logging where items of water rescue equipment can be found to allow quick and easy access when they’re needed. The app will also allow those registered to report if equipment is missing or damaged. The development of the app will be launched in December, and you can find how to register below.

Registering on the GoodSAM App | Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK)

Step-by-step Guide to Registering Water Rescue Equipment on the GoodSAM App | Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK)


Upcoming 'Respect The Water' Safety video


A powerful film about the devastating impact of the loss of a father to drowning will be released in January, under the Respect The Water banner.

Representatives from HM Coastguard, East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service and the RNLI teamed up to produce the film, which hears from 27-year-old Robbie Jones as he tells the story of losing his dad Gareth to the sea in January 2021.

It is hoped that the tragic incident can help to educate people on the dangers of open water in bad weather and, ultimately, prevent anyone else suffering the same fate.


Launch of water safety education framework for 3–18 year olds

As part of the UK’s Drowning Prevention Strategy, NWSF aims to drive a generational shift in water safety education in England, with an increasing awareness of the everyday risks of water to ensure messaging reaches families as a whole. 

School-aged children are not a high-risk group, however drowning risk increases as children reach teenage years, peaking among 20–29 year olds. Encouraging safer attitudes and improving skills and behaviours ahead of time is an essential ongoing priority. It’s worth noting that the number of children who drowned in England increased from 20 in 2019/20 to 37 in 2021/22, which is a worrying development.

Recognising the pivotal role of education in drowning prevention, we continue to support practitioners to further develop children and young people’s awareness of the dangers of open water, while enabling them to safely participate in water-based activities. 

In 2024, we’ll be launching a messaging framework to support the provision of age- and stage-appropriate content for young people aged 3–18 years old in England. This will support practitioners in the development, delivery and evaluation of new resources, materials and interventions for an identified audience. This is a critical step to support those working in this space and will contribute to future work to ensure that more young people are able to access and develop valuable lifesaving knowledge, skills and understanding. 


Coasteering Incident Report

Following a coasteering fatality in 2019, a coroner has issued a Regulation 28 ‘Report to Prevent Future Deaths’ to address concerns about the activity. Details of the incident and the Regulation 28 can be found below.


Dorset coasteering victim's fitness not checked, coroner says - BBC News

Prevention of future deaths report 2023


Product Safety Recall

A product recall has been issued for Swimbubs Float Jacket Buoyancy Aid (2309-0155). The product presents a high risk of drowning.


Events and opportunities


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