National Water Safety Forum



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Press Release

Public urged to Respect The Water as latest statistics show accidental drowning deaths increased again last year, with more dying at inland water than around the coast.


There were 277 deaths in the UK from accidental drownings in 2021 across inland and coastal locations. This is an increase of 23 from the previous year. The accidental drownings form part of the total water-related fatalities in the UK – for 2021 the total number of deaths in water was 616, a decrease of 15 from the previous year.

The statistics and figures in the report are from the Water Incident Database (WAID), which is maintained by the National Water Safety Forum (NWSF), and the key accidental drowning death insights are as follows:

• Inland open waters, such as rivers, canals, lakes, reservoirs and quarries continue to be the leading
locations with 62 per cent of deaths (N=168).
• Males continue to over represent with 83 per cent of deaths (N=230).
• 40 per cent 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).

Following this concerning increase in accidental water-related deaths last year, the National Water Safety Forum (NWSF) are reminding people of the following lifesaving advice to help people enjoy our waterways and coastlines, particularly as warmer weather arrives, but water temperatures
remain dangerously cold.

  • 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.
  • 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.

The collaborating members of the NWSF, come from a wide range of sectors including sport governing bodies, rescue services, charities, regulators, navigation and harbour authorities, local government, utilities and those representing quarry operators. Later this summer NWSF will be
launching its new #RespectTheWater campaign ahead of UN World Drowning Prevention Day on July 25
th. The campaign will be promoted nationally to raise awareness of key safety advice and support the Forum’s mission to reduce drowning.

Dawn Whittaker, CEO East Sussex Fire Rescue Service & NWSF Chair said:

“The pandemic continued to present considerable challenges at our coastal and inland waterways last year as more people had staycations. The #RespectTheWater campaign is designed to help prevent further deaths and injuries in water.

We urge the public to understand the dangers, to learn the importance of knowing how to float to live, and to call 999 if others are in trouble and if there is a water related emergency.

We have seen increased numbers participating in water sports and water-based activities and
consequently a rise of the number of incidents associated with activities such as Stand-up Paddle boarding and Open Water Swimming. We want people to enjoy the water safely, so we will continue to focus on guidance, education and awareness for the public.

We will continue to work together to reduce deaths caused by drowning and water related injuries in the UK, and endeavour to reach our collective goal of halving accidental drownings in the UK by 2026. The global water safety community is onboard with a UN resolution recognising the scale and burden of drowning, calling for urgent international action.”

To view and download the WAID 2021 report visit:

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March newsletter from the National Water Safety Forum

Message from the Chair

As we start to see the signs of spring, with warmer weather, bulbs emerging and lambs being born, I am sure all our spirits will be lifted by the thought of a new season ahead.

It has been a busy winter period for the NWSF co-ordinating and advisory groups as work continues on the WAID2 project; improving our system and data, supporting petitions raised about water safety issues, preparing campaigns for 2022 and continuing discussions on a variety of focus areas to deliver the forums priorities.

2022 feels like a really important year for Water Safety and before we know it the annual programme of drowning prevention campaigns will be underway, supported by our overarching ‘Respect the Water’ branding.

We will also be thinking about 25th July and the opportunities that World Drowning Prevention Day brings to support education and engagement about water safety. We would love to hear what you have planned so everyone working in water safety and drowning prevention makes the most of this annual event. Please send your plans, ideas or questions to

NWSF co-ordinating group have supported evidence sessions arranged by both the Welsh Assembly and Central Government petitions committees. You will be aware that petitions are often started by members of the public who wish to draw attention to issues they are concerned about and if they secure enough signatures then they will be considered for response or debate by the formal petitions committees. Usually these committees hold evidence gathering sessions prior to the public debate which facilitates both the petitioner and subject matter experts to provide evidence or answer questions in advance of the public debate. I am pleased to tell you that members of the co-ordinating committee have been invited to contribute to these evidence sessions.

Enjoy reading our March newsletter.

Until next time,

Dawn Whittaker

Chair of the National Water Safety Forum



Her Majesty’s Coastguard celebrates turning 200 this year

On 15th January 1822, HM Coastguard was formed and although much has changed since the early beginnings, its mission has always remained the same – to save lives along our coasts and out at sea.

As one of the UK’s four emergency services, HM Coastguard’s services are available 24/7 to respond to those in distress.

Today, there are:

  • About 3500 highly trained coastguard rescue officers ready to respond at a moment's notice.
  • Technologically advanced operations centres where rescue response is planned and coordinated
  • A fleet of some of the most advanced search and rescue helicopters in the world, capable of responding to emergencies in the most challenging conditions
  • Fixed wing aircraft to support search and rescue and to spot and respond to pollution incidents
  • Remotely piloted air systems to support searches and counter pollution activities.

The 200th anniversary weekend itself was a huge success with well-wishes and celebrations across all four nations. We especially appreciated the happy birthday messages from our friends within the National Water Safety Forum! Throwlines, which form part of the lifesaving kit used by coastguard teams, were cast into the seas around England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in honour of the special birthday milestone.

You may have even seen some of the features and stories for yourself on the likes of the BBC, ITV and Sky with the celebration being shared across radio, print and on TV all over the UK!

Although January marked the official milestone, HM Coastguard will be recognising all the immense contributions made by everyone connected to it, both past and present, throughout the year. Just some of these include museum exhibitions, where members of the public can learn more about HM Coastguard’s unique history, as well as a special souvenir magazine.

Special souvenir magazine



Two petitions initiated by Leeanne Bartley from Ruthin, North Wales have triggered water safety debates in the Welsh and UK parliaments.

Leeanne, whose son Mark Allen drowned after jumping into a reservoir in 2018, aged 18, launched the petitions under #MarkAllensLaw, calling for throwline stations at all open water sites.

The Welsh petition received more than 11,000 signatures and the UK-wide one received more than 103,000 signatures, both enough to trigger debates.

An evidence gathering debate was held by the Welsh Government’s Petitions Committee on 10th January, where members of Water Safety Wales and utility companies who manage reservoirs spoke. A recording of the session is here.

The UK Government’s Petitions Committee debated Leeanne’s petition on 24th January, where a number of MPs spoke in support. A recording of the session is here.

Both Jack Sargeant MS, Chair of the Welsh Government Petitions Committee, and Kemi Badenoch UK Minister of State at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities provided responses and agreed to follow up on various matters raised.

Leeanne said: ‘We are so incredibly pleased and proud to have achieved the targets needed on both the Welsh and UK Government petitions. It was an extremely tough and at times highly emotional six months, but we got there in the end through sheer hard work and determination to bring about a positive change in loving memory of our beautiful Mark. We could not have achieved this without the incredible support from the British public and we are so very thankful to each and every one of you. Please continue to walk beside us as we continue in our mission to make our open waterways safer places to enjoy for everyone #MarkAllensLaw.


Drowning Prevention Week (18th – 25th June)– bigger and better than ever 

Thanks to RLSS UKs incredible supporters and partners, in 2021 Drowning Prevention Week achieved:

  • A worldwide reach of 134 million through PR and Social Media
  • Delivery of education in 1,653 Schools, reaching in excess of 682,286 children

Drowning is preventable and it takes a collective effort, across multiple sectors - including education, leisure, the water safety sector and the public sector to continue the long term efforts to raise awareness and embed practical skills. 

Our goal is to raise awareness in the UK and Irish population, increasing resonance so that we can encourage more families to engage in practical swimming and lifesaving skills, and to enjoy a lifetime of fun in the water.

This year there is an exciting opportunity to reach more people as schools and leisure are getting back to pre-COVID operations and can hopefully play a critical role in reaching their own engaged audience.

RLSS UK has been caring for families since 1891 and you are invited and encouraged to get involved to help everyone across the UK and Ireland enjoy water safely.

Ways to get involved

  • Get Digital - digitally sharing our key water safety messaging, based around the water safety code. Use your social media and other digital channels to positively engage in your community.
  • Run Drowning Prevention Week activities - do you have connections with community leisure centres, pool, swim schools or clubs? We are firming up our guide for a variety of activities in an aquatic setting.
  • Education in schools - this year, following expansive work with a variety of water safety partners, we’ll be making thematic lessons available for those aged 5 -11, supplementing our existing variety of school resources, across the age groups. Can you share with or deliver education in schools?

Materials for this year’s Drowning Prevention Week will be available by 1st April 2022, to get direct access, sign up now.

Sign up to Drowning Prevention Week

For more information on Drowning Prevention Week click the button below.

Learn more about Drowning Prevention Week


New WAID Technical Project Manager

January saw RoSPA welcome the arrival Andy Wysocki, the new WAID Technical Project Manager.

Before joining the team, he worked for Zurich Insurance as Project Manager – leading on efforts to ‘right-size’ the environments used to manage the firm’s Life Protection Platform. 

Previously, his main background has been in the energy industry highlights, of which include implementing the UK’s first automated energy deal capture system back in 2001 and helping set-up and grow the IT function at Bristol Energy.

His focus will be on the delivery of the new WAID (Water Incident Database) platform – a real enabler for reducing the number of drownings and water-related incidents across the UK.  

We look forward to updating you on the project as it progresses.


#RespectTheWater campaign update

Following a competitive tender, the forum’s communication & marketing group are delighted to announce we’re in the process of appointing a specialist agency to support us in the following areas;

  • Developing a shared five year NWSF communication roadmap with a rolling two-year campaign planner to continue improving how we coordinate and compliment members existing water safety campaigns
  • Design and launch a new public facing #RespectTheWater coalition campaign. It will be available this summer for all members to support & use free resources to amplify vital water safety messages 

More information will be shared soon but if you have any questions please contact


Other dates/Information for your diary

  • NFCC: Be Water Aware week: 25th April – 1st May
  • Publication of annual report and 2021 WAID data: May 2022
  • RLSS UK: Sponge to Plunge. Cold Water Exposure 2-week Home Plan
  • RoSPA Scotland/ Water Safety Scotland online conference – 7th April
  • World Drowning Prevention Day – 25th July
  • DFT Maritime Safety Week – early July, date TBC

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HM Coastguard turns 200 tomorrow!

*News update from HM Coastguard*

HM Coastguard turns 200 tomorrow! Throughout this amazing milestone it will be recognising all the immense contributions made by people connected to HM Coastguard, both past and present.

The Coastguard was formed on 15th January 1822. From its earliest beginnings, launching rocket apparatus to ships in distress to today’s sophisticated search planning techniques, satellite services, modern rope and mud rescue techniques and state-of the art air assets, the Coastguard has come a long way. HM Coastguard has evolved but its mission has always remained the same – to save lives along our coasts and out at sea.

Today, around the UK’s coastline there are:

  • Over 3000 highly trained Coastguard Rescue volunteers ready to respond at a moment's notice.
  • Technologically advanced operations centres where rescue response is planned and coordinated.
  • A fleet of some of the most advanced search and rescue helicopters in the world, capable of responding to emergencies in the most challenging conditions
  • Fixed wing aircraft to support search and rescue and to spot and respond to pollution incidents
  • Remotely piloted air systems ready to be deployed to support searches and counter pollution activities

Most importantly, HM Coastguard is one of the UK’s 4 emergency services, available 24/7 to respond to those in distress at sea or around our coasts.

In a coastal emergency call 999 and ask for the Coastguard

#CG200 #999Coastguard



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NWSF Newsletter - December 2021


Message from the Chair


December is upon us already. Wow.


At this time of year, it is natural to pause to celebrate with loved ones but also to reflect on the previous 12 months.  


By the time this newsletter reaches your inbox, the National Water Safety Forum Coordinating Group will have met for the final time in 2021 and we will have asked ourselves some searching questions in relation to the UK Drowning Prevention Strategy.


If you attended the RoSPA Water Safety Conference and participated in the breakout sessions, I would like to thank you. Your contributions and insights will help the Coordinating Group as we hone our approach to the remaining five years of the Drowning Prevention Strategy


With the restrictions that COVID placed on festivities last year, I am sure many people will be keen to enjoy the Christmas break to the fullest extent possible. In and amongst the fun, please take time to share life-saving messages about alcohol and water safety via the Don’t Drink and Drown campaign. 


Finally, I would like to thank all those who gave me such warm feedback to my recent blog about working with bereaved families and individuals following fatal accidents. 


I look forward to seeing you in 2022 and continuing our work of reducing water-related harm in the UK.


Until next time,

Dawn Whittaker

Chair of the National Water Safety Forum


Click here to view the full newsletter

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Looking back at RoSPA’s first online water safety conference


On November 18, RoSPA hosted its first ever-online Water Safety Conference. Focussing on current drowning prevention developments in specific reference to the recent United Nations (UN) resolution on drowning prevention, the conference provided an opportunity to look at water safety through a global, national and local lens.

More than 400 registered attendees, were given exclusive access to speaker’s pre-recorded presentations in advance of the conference. At the event, delegates had the opportunity to put their questions to a panel of water safety experts.

Covering the global perspective, attendees heard from David Meddings (World Health Organization) and Gemma May (RNLI) who provided insight into the public health epidemic of drownings and what the UN resolution means for drowning prevention in the UK and around the world.

Dawn Whittaker Chair of the National Water Safety Forum (NWSF) briefed delegates about national picture of drowning prevention across the UK. Gareth Morrison (RNLI) provided an update on the NWSF’s joint and ongoing campaign: #RespectTheWater. Martin Barwood (Leeds Trinity University) discussed the systematic evaluation of documenting of UK drownings and the construction of a new Water Safety Incident Database (WAID).

Beckie Ramsay, who tragically lost her son Dylan in a fatal drowning incident more than a decade ago, shared her experience of fighting for water safety across the UK.  Dr Fionna Fylan (Brainbox) provided insight for attendees on behavioural science and how this might improve water safety. There was also a presentation about using smart technology with public rescue equipment.

The live Q&A session, chaired by Dawn Whittaker, was filled with enthusiasm and questions came from many quarters. Discussions were had about a variety of topics such as changing attitudes towards water safety, updating WAID to include near misses and improving parent awareness of drowning prevention. The chair hosted an excellent session which helped to address delegate’s questions and stimulate conversation.

Additionally, attendees were given the opportunity to participate in breakout sessions run by members of the National Water Safety Forum to discuss progress towards the UK Drowning Prevention Strategy and what is needed to move forward.

Five years ago, The NWSF, set the ambitious target of cutting water-related deaths by 50 per cent by 2026 in their UK Drowning Prevention Strategy. This conference provided a timely opportunity to reflect on progress made against the aims set in the Drowning Prevention Strategy. During breakout sessions, insightful recommendations were made by delegates which will be used in the NWSF in their forward planning.


Carlene McAvoy,

Leisure Safety Manager


You can still access the speaker’s pre-recorded presentations at the following links. We encourage you to watch these if you have not already:


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