Water safety

What to do if you fall in the water - Float to live - RNLI

Everyone who falls unexpectedly into cold water wants to follow the same instinct, to swim hard and to fight the cold water. But when people fight it, chances are, they lose. Fight the instinct to panic or swim.

Lie back and keep your airways clear, push your stomach up and extend your limbs moving hands and feet to help you float.

Try to take and control the effects of cold water shock such as the gasping reflex. Once your breathing is controlled call for help and if possible try making your way towards safety.

If you find yourself unexpectedly in the water, do as little as possible, and float.

What to do if someone falls into deep water

  • Call 999 or 112 - straightaway. If you don't have a phone shout for help - you may have to look for help but do not enter the water.
  • If you are near the coast ask for the coastguard, if you are inland ask for fire service and ambulance.
  • The emergency services will need as much information as possible to pinpoint where you are, look for landmarks, signs on bridges or use your mobile phones location app or map to help
  • Don’t hang up – stay on the line but try and continue to try to help the person if appropriate.
  • Encourage them to try and float on their back - if there is rescue equipment nearby throw it to them.
  • When you have made the 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 enter the water to try and 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.

Float for your life

How to float