‘Float, don’t fight’ - New initiative’s safety tips for those in difficulty in water

Lisa Perry and Kim Lynch from Suffolk Norse Swimming with Nick Ayers of the RNLI at the launch of th

Lisa Perry and Kim Lynch from Suffolk Norse Swimming with Nick Ayers of the RNLI at the launch of the swimming safety scheme. Picture: Simon Lee - Credit: Archant

A pioneering initiative to help keep children safe in and around open water has been launched in Suffolk.

The Shallow Water Personal Safety scheme, organised by Suffolk Norse, will be available to thousands of Suffolk children, aged between seven and 11, attending nearly 250 schools across the county.

Aimed at teaching pupils who are weak or non-swimmers how to stay safe, the scheme is believed to be the first of its kind in the UK.

It gives children the skills they need if they find themselves in trouble in open water, and also to know what to do if they see someone else in difficulty.

Children who reach the required standards will receive a special Personal Safety Certificate.

Speaking at the launch at Deben Swimming Pool in Woodbridge, Lisa Perry, operations manager for Suffolk Norse, said children who are strong swimmers were already being taught personal safety skills in the deep end at swimming pools.

“But up until now there has been nothing for children who are weak swimmers or are unable to swim.

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“This scheme gives those children the opportunity to learn those really important skills in the shallow end of the pool.”

The scheme is organised in partnership with the RNLI, and includes their key safety message of “Float - Don’t Fight.”

This advises people not to panic and struggle when they find themselves in difficulty. Instead, the safety advice is to stay calm and simply float until the shock of the cold water passes, and then, once your body is used to the water temperature, try to attract attention.

Nick Ayers, the RNLI’s community safety partner for the north and east, said that on average 400 people in the UK lose their lives through drowning each year.

The group most at risk are young males aged between 16 and 24. Because of the way they behave during the initial panic, many people drown when they are within two metres of help.

Nick said: “The skills these children are learning are life skills which they will retain forever. Also, these youngsters can influence their parents and other family members to learn personal safety skills as well, so there is a real ripple effect.”