The charity that saves lives at sea...and on the Thames

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British and Irish waters are dangerously unpredictable.

Over 200 people accidentally die each year around our coast.


Respect the Water is the RNLI’s national drowning prevention campaign - We still want you to enjoy the water, but we also want you to Respect the Water, acknowledge its dangers and never underestimate its power.


Whether it is on the Thames or by the sea, the water can be dangerous if you don't respect it.  The water in the Thames is cold all year round which can bring on cold water shock in any of us.  It also has strong currents and underwater obstructions which can quickly turn into a life threatening situation, even if you are a strong swimmer.  


Cold water shock


The effect on the body of entering cold water is often underestimated. The shock can be the precursor to drowning. Anything below 15oC is defined as cold water and can seriously affect your breathing and movement.


With average UK and Ireland sea temperatures at just 12oC, and rivers such as the Thames being colder even in the summer, the risk is significant most of the year.


Cold water shock causes the blood vessels in the skin to close, which increases the resistance of blood flow. Heart rate is also increased. As a result the heart has to work harder and blood pressure goes up. Cold water shock can therefore cause heart attacks, even in the relatively young and healthy. The sudden cooling of the skin by cold water also causes an involuntary gasp for breath. Breathing rates can change uncontrollably, sometimes increasing as much as tenfold. All these responses contribute to a feeling of panic, increasing the chance of inhaling water directly into the lungs.


This can all happen very quickly: it only takes half a pint of sea water to enter the lungs for a fully grown man to start drowning. You could die if you don't get medical care immediately.

Sea and river safety

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