National Water Safety Forum


NWSF Newsletter - March 2023



Message from the Chair

Spring is springing and I’m sure all members are grateful to see the lighter evenings arriving. 

So far this year, I’ve had the pleasure of joining Water Safety Wales for their meeting in January and Water Safety Scotland in February. I’m looking forward to hosting an event for International Women’s Day focused on open water swimming in early March and, of course, the RoSPA National Water Safety Conference is coming up, in Cardiff, on 15 March (further details below).

We’re also looking forward to the start of the 2023 water safety campaign calendar, with the Canal & River Trust and the National Fire Chiefs Council campaigns kicking us off – details of both are below. 

Finally, some comings and goings from the NWSF Co-ordinating Group (CG)… 

After quite an extensive appointment period, we’re pleased to welcome two new members, Dan Ryan and Martin Barwood. Having chatted to both Dan and Martin, I know they’re going to bring some great insight to the group.

I’d also like to record my thanks to a few people...

First, to George Rawlinson, who was the previous chair of NWSF and supported the CG with several significant pieces of work over the years, and who has also been the NWSF’s link to the National Search and Rescue Board. George will be leaving the CG to enjoy his retirement and more sailing.

Second, a thank you to Gareth Morrison, who has been leading the NWSF Comms Group and has recently stood down; and to Jim Watson, who has been an active contributor for many years, including as Chair of the Recreation advisory group – his extensive experience will be sorely missed.

I’d also like to welcome Claire Gauci, who joins as the new Chair of the Comms Group; and Ashley Jones, the new Chair of the Recreation advisory group.

Thank you to all of those departing for all your hard work and welcome to those joining the CG.

I also want to briefly say what an honour it was to be awarded the King’s Fire Service Medal for meritorious service in the New Year’s Honours list. Aside from my day job and 19 years in the Fire and Rescue sector, I know the citation was largely focused on the work I’ve done with water safety in the UK... work that has been so much more rewarding because of some fantastic partner agencies. So, when I do attend my investiture, I’ll be telling whichever member of the Royal Family I meet of the fantastic work being done by the NWSF to improve water safety and reduce drownings.

I hope you enjoy reading our newsletter and, of course, we’re always keen to hear about anything you’d like to see featured. 

Dawn Whittaker

NWSF Chair


Toddler Water Safety Week


The first ever Toddler Water Safety Week (06–10 February) was led by the Canal & River Trust, the waterways and wellbeing charity which protects and preserves 2,000 miles of waterways in England and Wales.

With hundreds of thousands of visits by parents with young children to canals each week, the initiative aimed to help parents and carers feel more confident about the time they enjoy along our waterways, with advice about talking to young children about how to stay safe by the water.


A 90-second film, supported by children’s TV presenter Maddie Moate, shows toddlers how to Stay Away From the Edge (stay SAFE) by taking two steps back. Two animated squirrels join in on the fun and young viewers can see footage of other toddlers learning to take two steps back from the water. A new learning bundle is free to download from the Trust’s website to help parents and childcare leaders start the conversation about water safety.

To watch the film and download the learning bundle of water safety-themed activities for young children, go to:

To watch the video on YouTube link, click here.


Be Water Aware


The National Fire Chiefs Council will run its annual ‘Be Water Aware’ campaign on 24–30 April.

The campaign raises awareness of the risk of accidental drowning and how to reduce the risk of unintentionally entering the water, and what to do if you find yourself or someone else in trouble in the water.

It advises who to call if an incident does occur, highlighting the role of fire and rescue services as responders and their work to reduce preventable deaths.


The toolkit and resources can be accessed on the NFCC website.


HM Coastguard launches new radio fillers


HM Coastguard is launching two new radio fillers at the end of March. One addresses the dangers of open water swimming through the story of a woman who gets in trouble while swimming in the sea. Luckily, a passer-by calls 999 Coastguard, who immediately send help to rescue her. The other filler features the ‘Float to live’ message through the story of a man who falls in the water while he’s out for a coastal run and, similar to the other filler, he’s rescued thanks to a passer-by who calls 999 Coastguard.

The radio fillers focus the safety message on taking a mobile phone as a means of calling for help and reminding people that in an emergency at the coast, they need to call 999 and ask for the Coastguard. If people get into difficulty, HM Coastguard (HMCG) can call on a range of search and rescue assets, from Coastguard rescue teams to helicopters or lifeboats, to rescue them. But HMCG would rather everyone stayed safe, so these new radio fillers were produced to help everyone avoid the dangers whilst out enjoying the sea/coast.

Listen out for the new radio fillers, as well as last year’s fillers on paddleboarding and cliff walking, on commercial radio stations, or visit the Maritime and Coastguard Agency/HMCG social media pages from 31 March to hear them.


Drowning and Incident Review research and update


The Drowning and Incident Review (DIR) is a process that has been created in Scotland by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS), RoSPA and Water Safety Scotland. It aims to ensure a comprehensive review of each suspected accidental water-related fatality. The principal aim of the process is to gather all relevant data and information in order to systematically review each incident with a view to prevent a future occurrence.

The benefits of DIR are anticipated at both local and national level in Scotland. DIR will provide insight into water-based risks by local area, ensuring that those best placed to mitigate these risks are involved in the process and kept informed. Nationally, the enhanced data capture is anticipated to lead to the development of better-informed national strategies to tackle the issue of drowning prevention.

Research on the DIR has also been published in the BMJ Injury Prevention journal. This research revealed a number of key insights, including the ability of DIR to fill important data gaps in Scotland in a safe and structured way. The design of DIR was seen to be consistent, collaborative and accessible across the country. Areas seen as barriers included issues around legal concerns, representation and resources. The research provided a number of recommendations to help overcome these barriers and ensure the long-term sustainability of DIR.

These recommendations have now been implemented and DIR will soon be ready to launch in early Spring. A full training package, hosted by SFRS, will also be rolled out.

If you’d like to get in touch about DIR in Scotland, please email

Read the article here


British Canoeing recognised as a National Governing Body for SUP


British Canoeing has been formally recognised as a National Governing Body (NGB) for Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) after receiving confirmation from Sport England. This decision applies to England only.

For more information, click here.


MAIB report on Haverfordwest incident published

Following the tragic event at Haverfordwest Town Weir on 30 October 2021, in which four paddleboarders lost their lives, MAIB launched an investigation into the circumstances. The full report was published in December. One of several recommendations was made to UK National Sports Councils to address governance and guidance of the sport.

You can read the full report here.


New Forum Members 

In 2022, the Forum advertised for new members to join the Coordinating Group. Following our call for applications, we’re delighted to announce that we’ve filled the two positions advertised.


  • Dan Ryan, Programme Manager, Riverford Organic Farmers. Read Ryan’s bio.

Public health 

  • Martin Barwood, Leeds Trinity University. Read Martin’s bio.

We welcome Dan and Martin to the Forum, both of whom are looking forward to contributing their experience towards the aims of the Drowning Prevention Strategy. 


RoSPA launches ‘Protect our People’ campaign


The Retained EU Law Bill (REUL), currently going through parliament, threatens to abolish approximately thousands of pieces of longstanding legal protections on 31 December, affecting, among other things, seatbelts, construction and the safety of children’s toys.

RoSPA is calling on organisations and committees to join its Protect Our People campaign. More information about the Protect Our People campaign is available here.


RoSPA Water Safety Conference

There’s still time to get a place at the RoSPA National Water Safety Conference in Cardiff on 15 March.

For more information and to sign up, click here.


Call for stories

As the National Water Safety Forum works with a broad range of organisations and partners, we want to share the powerful work that so many organisations are doing across the board to reduce drowning fatalities. We are collating case studies and stories that truly show the positive impact our partners have across the UK. Please send in your stories to:


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