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RNLI launches lifesaving Float to Live campaign ahead of Bank Holiday

RNLI Lifeboat

The RNLI launched a vital water safety campaign this week ahead of the May Bank Holiday.

Experts at the charity are urging everyone planning to enjoy the coast to remember that if you get into trouble in the water, Float to Live.

The campaign is launched as the RNLI reveals that 32% of people still do not know what to do if they unexpectedly get into difficulty in the water.

New research carried out by the RNLI and the University of Portsmouth’s Extreme Environments Laboratory (EEL) tested people in different open water environments.

The research has shown that tilting your head back to submerge the ears is key; we all float best in slightly different positions so your legs may naturally sink, and you may need to gently move your hands in a circular motion to stay floating.

Relax and try to breathe normally, then once your breathing is under control, call for help or swim to safety if you feel able. 

If you spot someone else in trouble in the water call 999 – if you are at sea or on the beach ask for the Coastguard, or if inland ask for the Fire and Rescue Service. 

There were 226 deaths in the UK from accidental drownings in 2022, across inland and coastal locations. Of the people who died 40% had no intention of entering the water, such as those walking, with causes including slips, trips and falls, being cut off by the tide, or swept in by waves.

The RNLI and EEL research shows that floating is different for everyone, where some people naturally float with little movement, others require gentle use of their hands and legs to stay afloat. 

RNLI float to live graphic.

If you find yourself in difficulty in the water:

  • Tilt your head back with ears submerged

  • Relax and try to control your breathing

  • Use your hands to help you stay afloat

  • It's OK if your legs sink, we all float differently


Linda-Gene Byrne, Regional Water Safety Lead at the RNLI, said:

"As we approach warmer weather and enter into the Bank holiday, we are expecting the coast to be incredibly busy. 

"We want to make sure that if an emergency unfolds, people know what to do. 

"If you get into trouble in the water, Float to Live: tilt your head back with ears submerged and try to relax and control your breathing. Use your hands to help you stay afloat and then call for help to swim to safety if you can.

"I’d really encourage anyone reading this to help spread the word to any family and friends – and next time you are in a safe environment practice floating for yourself - why not try it between the red and yellow flags when visiting an RNLI lifeguarded beach."

Professor Mike Tipton, from the University of Portsmouth EEL, said:

"We have had a long and productive relationship with the RNLI and it is great to see our collaborative research saving yet more lives in water. It also emphasises the importance of raising public awareness of Float to Live via as many platforms as possible."


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