East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service logo
East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service logo

Water Safety & Drowning Prevention

Drowning is a leading cause of accidental death in the UK and we’re committed to working with our partner agencies to ensure everyone is equipped with the necessary information they need to protect themselves and their loved ones.

A drowning incident happens quickly and without warning. It has a devastating impact on families and many people will survive a drowning incident but are left with life changing injuries.

We want people to really enjoy being near the water and be aware of the relevant risks.

Be water aware...    

General Safety advice 

  • If you are going out on your own, let someone know where you are going and when you are coming back. 

  • Obey any warning or safety signs.

  • Look out for trip or slip hazards around  water and stick to proper pathways.

  • Remember river banks and cliff edges may  be unstable and give way.

  • Don’t fool around near water, especially if you have been drinking – look out for each other and raise the alarm if  you see someone in trouble. 

Click on the picture for more about this exciting new life-saving water safety education initiative

What to do if someone falls into deep water

The first thing to do is call for help – straightaway. Call 999.   

  • The emergency services will need to know where you are. Accurate information can save precious minutes. If you have a smart phone and have location services or map tools enabled this can help. If not, look around for any landmarks or signs – for example bridges may have numbers on them which can identify their location.    
  • Don’t hang up – stay on the line but try and continue to help the person if appropriate.
  • When you have made this call shout for help from anyone who might be close by.
  • Human nature says you are likely to want to attempt to help while rescue services are on their way. Never, ever enter the water to try to save someone. This usually ends up adding to the problem.
  • If you go into the water you are likely to suffer from cold water shock which will leave you unable to help even if you are a strong swimmer.
  • Can the person help themselves? Shout to them ‘Swim to me’. The water can be disorientating. This can give them a focus. Keep any instructions short clear and loud. Don’t shout instructions using different words each time.
  • Look around for any lifesaving equipment. Depending on where you are there might be lifebelts or throw bags – use them. If they are attached to a rope make sure you have secured or are holding the end of the rope so you can pull them in.
  • If there is no lifesaving equipment look at what else you can use. There may be something that can help them stay afloat – even an item such as a ball can help. 
  • If you manage to get the person out of the water they will always need medical attention – even if they seem fine, drowning can occur at a later stage if water has already entered the lungs.

Working with partners

We have a statutory duty to identify and respond to risk within our communities by helping to keep people safe.

Drowning prevention case-study - Daniel's story

We have launched a potentially life-saving drowning prevention case-study film as part of our on-going water safety campaign. 

The ten-minute film details the true story of a young man who became separated from his friends during a November night out and fell, unnoticed into the River Ouse. 

A random 999 call sparked a major, multi-agency rescue and the man was rescued alive after a police helicopter located a faint heat source. He had been in the water for around 90 minutes. 

The film weaves together his story, his family’s reaction when they got the call and the events of the evening from the perspective of East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service personnel who rescued him along with those of our emergency service colleagues. 

The ultimate aim of the film is to highlight how easily this type of incident can occur and to try and prevent it from happening so regularly. 

89% of men who died after going missing on a night out were found dead in the water and 2016 saw over 600 water related fatalities in the UK.

Don’t tread on thin ice this winter!

Keeping safe near water isn’t just for summer. Drowning in the UK is one of the leading causes of accidental deaths in the UK and many people who drown were just taking part in everyday activities such as hiking or angling and had no intention on entering the water. 

It’s easier to slip or fall in icy weather so it’s especially important to that you let somebody know where you are and when you’ll be back.

It may seem obvious but however tempting it looks, venturing onto frozen water is dangerous and potentially fatal.

Ice that looks solid from the bank becomes thinner very quickly and can easily break. Parents, guardians and teachers are urged to remind children and young people never to venture onto frozen water.

If your dog or another animal falls through the ice never go into the water to rescue it. Most ice related drownings involve an attempted rescue of a dog! Never throw sticks or balls onto the ice for your dog.

If you do see a person or animal in trouble in icy water, stay on the bank and phone 999. 

The emergency services will need to know where you are. Accurate information can save precious minutes. Never enter the water to try and save someone. This usually ends up adding to the problem. Always stay on the bank. 

More life-saving tips 


Useful links

National Water Safety Forum
National Water Safety Forum
Royal Life Saving Society
Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS)
RNLI Life Boats
RNLI Life Boats

Beach Flags

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Latest Update :
11 September 2018
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