National Water Safety Forum



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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:


Read More >


NWSF update

NWSF Coordinating Group member update


Dear colleagues

In 2022 the Forum advertised out to its network to add to the Coordinating Group. The purpose of which was to widen its membership and fill any gaps in knowledge and experience. 

Following our call for applications, we are delighted to advise that we have filled the two positions advertised: 



Dan Ryan, Programme Manager, Riverford Organic Farmers 

You can read his bio here


Public Health 

Martin Barwood – Leeds Trinity University  

You can read his bio here


Please join us in welcoming Dan and Martin to the Forum, both of whom are looking forward to contributing their experience towards the aims of the Drowning Prevention Strategy. 


On a final note, George Rawlinson, former Chair of the NWSF, is now stepping away from the Forum and we would like to thank him for his continued support. 

Read More >


NWSF update

NWSF Member survey - results and overview



The National Water Safety Forum (NWSF) is at the mid-way point of the UK’s Drowning Prevention Strategy and in order to ensure momentum and increased collaboration, the NWSF has been working with Advisory Group Chair’s to develop a NWSF workplan. Alongside this, we asked NWSF members to respond to a short survey which aimed to explore their views and experiences on the NWSF and potential areas for improvement and future sustainability.  

This survey was a ‘snapshot’ survey for exploration purposes only.  No policy decisions will be made based on these results.

The survey aligned with the creation of the NWSF workplan and Advisory Group discussions.



An online 16 question survey was sent to all Coordinating Group and Advisory Group members in August 2022. The survey remained open until the end of September 2022.

All responses were analysed using Excel. All responses to open-ended questions were thematically analysed and categorised. Charts and graphs have been used to illustrate the data.


Key results

14 members responded to the survey (16 % response rate).

  • All of the respondents to the survey were positive about their satisfaction level of membership to the NWSF.
  • Respondents noted that this satisfaction was a result of the hard work and dedication of the Forum, the accessibility of online meetings, regular contact, networking opportunities and well-run meetings. Areas for improvement included the suggestion that the Forum was too much of a ‘closed shop’ and needed to improve its engagement. Other concerns were specific individual organisational barriers around time commitment.
  • Some of the key benefits that members noted as being part of the NWSF included: useful guidance documents, knowledge and expertise, network opportunities, up-to date data and insights and the ability of the Forum to be a conduit to push other organisations messaging.
  • Areas where members would like to see further benefit include: increased shared resources, recognition of their own organisation on the NWSF website, better engagement and improved cross-branding.
  • 21% of respondents were willing to make a financial contribution to the NWSF either as an organisation or an individual. Reasons why 70% would not be willing to do this were due to budgeting demands or preference for direct sponsorship.
  • The top four issues which members would like the NWSF to concentrate on include: watersport safety, general awareness raising, misadventure and education.
  • Respondents suggested that the ways the NWSF could assist with this include: sharing more content, providing more WAID stats, understanding differences across the UK nations and sharing local practice.


Next steps

The NWSF Communications Advisory Group will take on board the suggestions around awareness raising, cross branding, use of the NWSF website, sharing more content and ways to capture local practice at a national level. This could be achieved for example, through in-depth case studies.

More WAID stats will be available with the release of WAID version 2 in 2023.

The Coordinating Group will further consider how they improve engaging across the whole UK and at local level.

The key topics that were highlighted as key priority areas for members will be pushed out to each of the relevant Advisory Groups.



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NWSF Newsletter - December 2022


Message from the Chair

I can’t quite believe its December; 2022 has certainly been a busy one for everyone involved with the NWSF and water safety.

We have had great success in securing additional funding to formally support the launch of Respect The Water as a collaborative campaign which had a significant reach (see campaign report further down). A great deal of work has seen the completion and publication of the annual drowning fatality report in May. A collaborative effort in education has been helped by the efforts of several parents. Colleagues have been in discussion with the Department of Education about the drafting of a core lesson plan on water safety which could be used in schools. There was fantastic support for World Drowning Prevention Day in UK with lots of landmark buildings going blue, also behind the scenes many meetings and collaborative efforts addressed the impacts of extreme dry and hot weather during six weeks in the summer. There has also been significant progress with our new WAID 2 data project which will be a game changer for next year in terms of data quality and capture.

As I write this the World Cup is on, also companies and clubs and students are planning their Christmas parties. Whilst we all want to wish everyone a “Merry Christmas”, we urge people to do so away from waterside locations where safety could be compromised. The Royal Lifesaving Society’s annual seasonal campaign reminds us all about the risk of drinking and drowning and calls on people to “Be a mate” and ensure everyone gets home safely after a night out celebrating.

Who knows exactly what 2023 will have in store? We know that post-COVID and with pools closing due to utility inflation that we will have a generation who have had less opportunity to learn to swim. At the same time, we predict the continued growth in open water and water sports.

Finally, one thing I do know is that we remain reliant on your hard work, collaborative support and pulling together to ensure that drowning prevention and enjoying the water safely remains front and centre of our work, with a determined focus on continuing to ensure we drive down deaths and injuries in water.

Dawn Whittaker

NWSF Chair






We are now in the third week of the Royal Life Saving Society UK’s (RLSS UK) #DontDrinkandDrown campaign.

There is one more week to go to keep sharing the vital water safety messages to ensure everyone stays safe during these winter months.

As we continue to see work Christmas parties and friends and families gather in bars and pubs - as well as football fans enjoying the FIFA World Cup - we need to ensure that the key messaging and safety advice remains front of mind.


We encourage everyone to #BeAMate and ensure you and your friends find a safe route home away from the water after drinking.

On average 80 people lose their lives each year as a result of a substance-related drowning. RLSS UK have lots of free downloadable resources on their website, which we would encourage you to use so that together we can ensure everyone returns home safely.

RLSS UK would like to thank those who have supported the campaign so far.




WAID Update


The Water Incident Database (WAID) is a service developed by the National Water Safety Forum (NWSF) to bring together water-related incident data from a wide range of sources within the UK. It acts as a single repository for the capture of and reporting on fatal water incidents.

Taking the basis of the current system, WAID 2 will build on the good work that has come before with the new platform providing increased automation, a richer dataset, and the timelier capture of incident details.This allows quicker and deeper insights to be made to further improve drowning prevention activities.


The project to implement the new system is currently nearing completion of its second phase with work under way to build a new front-end application and to complete the automated data pipelines.

The new App will help improve the manual incident capture process which will now be complemented by automated data feeds which bring-in incident data directly from the bigger data provider’s systems.


As we move into 2023, we intend to start the transition to the new system, build new datasets, dashboards and insights with monthly assured reporting to complement the current annually published data.

Keep your eyes peeled for further updates.


Looking back at 2022


There has been so much going on over the past 12 months as the National Water Safety Forum (NWSF) continues working with partners in drowning prevention.



Respect The Water Campaign

One of the major highlights of 2022 was the launch of the Respect the Water 999 campaign this summer, which was the largest ever collaborative UK water safety campaign.

Through national media coverage across TV and radio, the NWSF were able to ‘break the echo chamber’ with this powerful campaign. Launched on World Drowning Prevention Day (WDPD), in response to WHO’s invitation to ‘do one thing’ to prevent drowning, the NWSF even featured in the WHO’s roundup in their webinar on July 27.


Through the RTW 999 campaign and with the strength of the NWSF’s powerful networks, over 25 locations lit up blue in support of WDPD.

With dedication, passion and focus, the NWSF and its members, look forward to continuing this great work in drowning prevention in 2023 and beyond.

Respect The Water report here




Forward Planning

The Forum have been working hard to put together a plan of forward actions to help us in our concentrated efforts in drowning prevention.

The first of these actions is the launch of the NWSF Workplan, which will guide the Coordinating and Advisory Groups in line with the Drowning Prevention Strategy. The second is the Advocacy Plan, which will coordinate the work of the Forum with external partners and other bodies.


Water Safety Scotland

Water Safety Scotland released the Interim Review of Scotland’s Drowning Prevention Strategy in March 2022.

An impressive amount of work has been undertaken in the last four years by WSS and its members including new education resources to ensure water safety lessons are available for teachers to use across every curriculum level in Scotland.


Additionally, the voluntary Drowning and Incident Review (DIR) process for accidental water-related fatalities in Scotland has been developed after many months of research and planning, with the anticipated launch date of March 2023.


Read the review here



Water Safety Wales

Water Safety Wales has facilitated a Families Group working with families affected by drowning over the last 18-24 months. Leeanne Bartley, a member of the families group who lost her son Mark to drowning, has had significant success with her petition to Welsh Government on drowning prevention.

The Petitions Committee report published in August made six helpful recommendations. Last week the Welsh Government published its response to those recommendations and accepted five and accepted one in principle. The full response is here.

WSW are delighted that the next stage of this process is a full debate in the Senedd (Welsh Parliament) on December 7th on the issues raised in the report and Water Safety Wales is working with Leeanne and Members of the Senedd to ensure that opportunity is taken to the fullest extent possible. We will share details of the debate on December 7th when the agenda is published. Our thanks go to Leeanne and her family for their work in getting to this stage.




Celebrate and Stay Safe


It’s the end of the year and for many of us December is a season of celebration. It’s a time to get together with friends, loved ones and let’s not forget all-singing and dancing Christmas parties! Whether it's after-work drinks, family events or fun nights out, messages of staying safe and being aware of your water surroundings are important.

We encourage this time of Christmas festivities to be enjoyed with awareness to avoid potential water incidents.


Looking out for friends, family and colleagues is something we all can do at social events and celebrations.

Simple planning ahead such as booking a taxi home, letting someone know where you’re going and avoiding walking home alone at night by rivers and canals are simple safety measures to ensure the high spirits of the season lead to a safe festive season for all.

We hope you share these safety messages with your friends, loved ones and networks to ensure a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year. 


Job Vacancy

Community Safety Policy Lead - Civil Service Jobs - GOV.UK

Applications will close at 11.55pm on Wednesday, 4th January 2023.



What to look out for in 2023


  • RoSPA Water Safety Conference 15th March 2023
  • Launch of WAID 2
  • 2022 Annual Drowning Report – late Spring 2023
  • More on Respect The Water and resources
  • Drowning and Incident Review research results

Keep updated by registering for our newsletter 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


Read More >


NWSF Newsletter - September 2022



Message from the Chair


It seems only 5 minutes since I was writing my last address for the additional World Drowning Prevention Day nwsletter last month, but in those few weeks I want to briefly acknowledge how busy it has been for all agencies involved in water safety and drowning prevention. July and the first three weeks of August have obviously seen very high temperatures in the UK with the heatwave and as a consequence the number of people heading to the coast and inland waters “to cool off” has been high...and sadly we have seen the usual relative increase in incidents and fatalities.

When families head out to both UK and foreign holiday locations, it’s important that all agencies continue to share our #RespectTheWater messages, both those that help people understand risk, but also what to do in the event of finding themselves or others in difficultly. Our “Make the right call” and “Float to Live” messages have both helped save lives and I would appreciate it if partners continue to send NWSF any stories of successful rescues to share.

 As we head into September, the NWSF Coordinating Group are preparing for next years’ plan and budget setting and also undertaking a session on “lessons learned” from WDPD 2022 to start preparing for 2023 campaign.

As I head off on leave next week, and for some much needed R&R, I hope you have all had an opportunity for some down time this summer.


Dawn Whittaker

Chair of NWSF




Respect The Water Campaign Highlights


We’re delighted that the Respect the Water campaign, which launched on 25th July (World Drowning Prevention Day), involved over 50 organisations working as a collective with the joint aim to prevent drowning fatalities across the UK. Thank you to everyone who played a part in making this a truly special and high impactful launch.

As part of the campaign, TV adverts advising people to resist the instinct to jump into water and instead to call 999 in a water emergency were shown throughout the day on ITV.

This included during Good Morning Britain and Coronation Street, then on targeted catch-up TV via ITV player during shows like Love Island. “Make the right call” outdoor banners were featured in multiple high-risk locations across the UK, including Liverpool, London, Manchester, Glasgow and Bath.

In its first week, 394 UK media outlets covered the campaign including 33 TV stations and over 46 national, regional and commercial radio stations. The new Respect the Water website also went live on World Drowning Prevention Day, enabling people to share the campaign assets, information and film. These are still available on the website to be freely used.

Whilst being proud of the success that the Respect the Water campaign is currently having, we are strategically focused on our long-term goals and drowning prevention targets.

David Walker, Head of Road and Leisure Safety at RoSPA, says: “We are overwhelmed by the reach the RTW campaign has had. Our mission is to halve the number of accidental drownings by 2026. This is a strong start and we look forward to building on this success and getting this message out to the public. Our Forum members and partnerships are our strongest allies and this is just the beginning.”

You can receive campaign updates by signing up to the newsletter at and follow NWSF on Twitter @NWSFweb to share the campaign message. You can also find related posts across social media by searching the hashtag #RespectTheWater





World Drowning Prevention Day – Thank You for Going Blue


On 25th July for World Drowning Prevention Day (WDPD), over 25 well-known landmarks and emergency service buildings lit up blue across the UK, shining a visual cascade of support for WDPD. Illuminated locations included The Kelpies in Falkirk Scotland, Liver Building in Liverpool, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Glasgow and many more. Other creative ways of going blue involved lifesavers and fundraisers from the RNLI using blue sun cream to prompt conversations on the day.

Watch the video to see some locations across the UK that went blue.





Emergency Services Day – 9th September


Emergency Services Day takes place on the 9th September every year and is also known as 999 Day.

It is a day attributed to support the heroic men and women of the NHS and emergency services and is a great opportunity to educate the public about basic lifesaving skills. 


The Emergency Services Day:


·       Promotes our 999 heroes who serve / have served.

·       Educates the public on essential life-saving skills.

·       Promotes emergency services charities and the work they do

·       Promotes campaigns being run by frontline emergency services

·       Promotes career and volunteer opportunities across the emergency services.

Did you know that approximately 2 million people work and volunteer across the NHS and emergency services? Many are volunteers and without them the emergency services could not operate effectively.

We’d like to take this opportunity to highlight and show appreciation to volunteers who are an essential part of the emergency services which include; Special Constables, Retained Firefighters, NHS Community Responders, St John Ambulance, RNLI, Search and Rescue and Coastguard volunteers.

For more information on 999 Day click here.



World Suicide Prevention Day – Creating Hope through Action


September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day and this years’ theme, ‘creating hope through action’ aims to help encourage and empower people to take action to further prevent suicide. The NWSF will be supporting the day on social media.

Our members help thousands of people every year – and while many of these are people who have found themselves accidentally in danger, we are, sadly, also involved with incidents involving suicide, self-harm and people in crisis.

We are incredibly proud of how professionally our members deal with challenging incidents of this nature, and continue to explore ways to better prepare, protect and support our members involved with suicide related incidents.

To find out about World Suicide Prevention Day click here.


Don’t Drink and Drown 12th - 18th September 2022


The Royal Life Saving Society UK’s (RLSS UK) annual Don’t Drink and Drown campaign launches on 12th September, running until 18th September, aiming to get the message across about water safety as thousands of students head off to start their first semester at university.

 The campaign aims to speak to students and encourage them to, after a night out, be responsible for their friends, #beamate, and ensure they return home safely.


As fresher’s events take place across the UK in September, many students will be heading to bars and clubs to celebrate the start of their university adventure in areas they are unfamiliar with, we’ll be working with targeted universities to reach students

RLSS UK is currently building their dedicated Don’t Drink and Drown section on their website where social media assets, in English and Welsh, can be downloaded and shared to help spread the key messages, physical resources such as t-shirts, beer mats and leaflets can be purchased, and powerful real-life stories can be found.

We hope we can count on your support to share this vital messaging across the week and help us ensure that every student is able to enjoy their university experience.

A second version of the campaign coinciding with the World Cup and increased night-time economy leading into Christmas will run from 21 November to 18 December. If you would like to discuss potentially running activity in your local area email




Product alert and recalls

·       Trespass "DIVER" Men's Full Body Wetsuit (2207-0284)

·       iROCKER Blackfin Paddle Boards (Models V, X and XL) (2208-0009)



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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