How water aware are you?

In 2017 255 people accidentally drowned - around 50% of these people were taking part in everyday activities near water such as walking or running.

Don’t assume you’re not at risk of drowning because you don’t intend to go into the water.

Runners and walkers

Did you know that runners and walkers are most at risk of accidental drowning in the UK?

  • Be aware and take notice of any warning signs.
  • Stay clear of the edges. River banks and cliff edges may be unstable and give way.
  • Wear appropriate footwear and clothing.
  • Take a fully charged mobile with you and check signal strength.
  • Look out for slip hazards. Pay attention to your footing.
  • Don’t walk or run next to water if levels are high.
  • Avoid walking or running near water in the dark.

Take care near the water, about a third of accidental drowning victims were running or walking near water.

Taking the dog out for a walk

Keep dogs on leads near water. Avoid throwing sticks or balls near these locations.

If you let your dog jump in for a swim make sure it can easily get out and be careful - who knows what’s underneath the surface.

  • Never jump in after your dog always stay on land. Who will rescue you?
  • Dogs are great swimmers and it’s unlikely that they will come to any harm.
  • Do not swim out to rescue the dog.  You may cause them to panic and put yourself in danger.
  • Call 999 and wait for assistance.

Don’t drink and drown

It only takes a split second for happy hour to end in a nightmare. Figures state that about a quarter of all adult drowning victims have alcohol in their bloodstream.

Don’t let a night out end in tragedy: if you’ve had a drink, stay away from the water.

  • Don’t walk home near water, you might fall in.
  • Look out for your friends. Make sure they get home safely.
  • Don’t enter the water if you have been drinking.


Enjoy fishing? Have you considered wearing lifejacket? 86 people might have survived a fall into the water between 2010–2013 if they had worn a lifejacket.

  • Check the weather forecast and conditions before you go.
  • Make sure you let someone know where you are going to fish and when you are likely to return.
  • You have a fully charged mobile and make sure you have good signal strength.
  • Double check your fishing spot. Is it still safe? The bank may have been safe by they can erode quickly so always check.
  • Dress appropriately, sturdy footwear, sun hat in hot weather, warm layers in the cold.

If you fall in

  • Shout for help as loudly as you can.
  • Float to live - if you are in deep, fast flowing water then lean back and float with your feet first:
    • Try to keep your knees slightly bent as this will enable you to push yourself away from objects in the water that may harm you like rocks or other hazards.
    • You can also steer by using your hands as paddles.
  • If you feel strong enough, attempt to get to a safe place:
    • If you can feel the river bed try to move yourself in small jumps towards safety, either the bank or something you can climb on.
    • If the current is strong or the water is very deep try to work with the flow and not against it. Even if this carries you downstream.
    • It’s always safer to swim or crawl. If you try to stand you are more easily knocked over or may get your foot trapped in something on the river bed.
  • As soon as it seems you are in slower moving water:
    • Turn onto your front and swim as strongly as you can.
    • Swim diagonally across the current towards the bank.
    • Get away from the centre of the river as soon as you can, avoiding outside bends as this is where the water flows the fastest.
  • If you find yourself heading towards a hazard like a weir then you must try to roll into a ball, using your hands and arms to protect your head.

Would you know what to do if you saw someone fall into the water?

  • Call 999 immediately
  • Never jump into the water to rescue them.
  • Encourage them to float on their back
  • Throw something buoyant so they can grab hold and stay afloat until they can be rescued:
    • Look around to see if there is a Life Ring.
    • See if there is anything you could use to help. Is there a fallen branch that you could pass to them to hold onto, a rope or even a football will help the person to stay buoyant.
  • Stay calm and talk to them and tell you have called for help and try and reassure them.
  • If the person is being taken rapidly downstream then try to get ahead of them.
  • Shout and signal to others for help.

Cold water shock

Even on a warm day, the temperature of a body of open water can remain very cold. If you enter the water, you experience a cold-shock response. This is where your body is shocked by the change in temperature and starts to shut down. This can happen right away or after you have been swimming for a while. It happens to all kinds of people, including fit, healthy people and strong swimmers. Cold shock makes you feel weak, tired, breathless and can make you lose consciousness. It is a major cause of drowning. Be aware of the risk.