#RespectTheWater – The RNLI is today launching its national drowning prevention campaign, Respect the Water, warning people that the coastlines and waters can be dangerously unpredictable. The campaign which will be run on radio, outdoor and online will also see two hard-hitting ads screened in Irish cinemas over the summer months, which show the effect of cold water shock on the body and the unpredictability of the water.
Figures released by the charity today show an average of 59 people die in Irish waters each year – more than the number of pedestrians and cyclists killed on Ireland's roads.
In 2014 alone, 55 people died by accidental drowning in Irish waterways. The number of near-misses is even higher – last year the RNLI's lifeboat crews around the Republic of Ireland rescued 1,133 people and saved 36 lives.
The RNLI is aiming to halve the number of coastal deaths by 2024 and the charity's national drowning prevention campaign, Respect the Water, is warning people – particularly adult men – to be aware of the dangers of the coastline, as well as the water itself.
The two 60 second commercials will screen in Irish and UK cinemas over the next eight weeks. The first film entitled 'Breathe' is shown from the point of view of the casualty, played by an actor. The narrator invites the audience to hold its breath while watching the film, as the casualty struggles and succumbs to the effects of cold water shock in the time the audience is holding their breath. The film reveals that, on land, the average person can hold their breath for 45 seconds – but in cold water, they might not last 10.
The second film called 'unpredictable' is again shown from the perspective of a casualty, played by an actor and shows the unpredictability of the water and how quickly conditions can turn. Both films have received a 15 age rating.
(N.B. Please note videos contain scenes that some viewers may find distressing)
Joe Moore, RNLI Coastal Safety Manager for Ireland, says: 'We're warning people that if they're going near the water, whatever their activity, they could be at risk and they need to take care. A large number of incidents which happen each year involve people who never even intended to enter the water – slips and falls while walking or running are very common. Unexpected dangers like slippery rocks, sudden waves or unstable ground can catch anyone out.'
The charity is also warning people of the unpredictability of the water, including the dangers of cold water and rip currents. Summer air temperatures may be warm but the average sea temperature is just 12oc. Cold water shock, which causes uncontrollable gasping and numbs the limbs, can set in at any temperature below 15oc.
Rips are strong currents of water which can quickly drag people out of their depth. They account for around two-thirds of the environmental-related incidents lifeguards respond to each year. For those not at a lifeguarded beach, being caught in a rip can prove fatal if they don't take the right steps to free themselves and make it safely to shore.
Joe Moore added: 'The water might look inviting, but it can be dangerously unpredictable, with hazards which can be fatal if not respected. Cold water is a major risk for anyone who ends up in the water – intentionally or otherwise. The body's reaction to sudden immersion in cold water will trigger uncontrollable gasping, which can draw water into the lungs and lead to drowning. The coldness will also gradually shut down the use of limbs, making it very difficult even for strong swimmers to stay afloat.
'We want people to enjoy the water but to make sure they respect it. On average 59 lives are lost around the coast of the Republic of Ireland each year but many of these losses could be avoided if people acknowledge the dangers and follow some basic safety advice.'
The RNLI's Respect the Water campaign, warning people of the dangerously unpredictable nature of our seas and coastlines, will run across Ireland and the UK during the summer, through advertising channels including cinema, outdoor, radio and online.
The charity is also running a number of tailored safety programmes, targeted at those who participate in the activities which account for a large number of coastal incidents each year.
Those interested in finding out more about the dangers of the coast can visit the Respect the Water website and see for themselves at www.rnli.org/respectthewater