Float to live

Fight your instincts, not the water

Everyone who falls unexpectedly into cold water wants to follow the same instinct, to swim hard. But if you float until the cold water shock passes, you will have a better chance of survival.

  1. Step 1 - Fight your instinct to thrash around
  2. Step 2 - Lean back, extend your arms and legs
  3. Step 3 - If you need to, gently move them around to help you float
  4. Step 4 - Float until you can control your breathing
  5. Step 5 - Only then, call for help or swim to safety

What to do next

Swim to safety, call for help, or continue to float until help arrives

How does floating work?

Respect the Water is the RNLI’s drowning prevention campaign, highlighting the risks of cold water shock. When you fall into water below 15°C, you instinctively gasp for air, increasing your chance of inhaling water. Instead, relax and float for around 90 seconds to minimise this risk.

5 steps to float

1. Fight your instinct to thrash around

2. Lean back, extend your arms and legs

3. If you need to, gently move your arms and legs to help you float

4. Float until you can control your breathing

5. Only then, call for help or swim to safety

We can only spread the word, and save more lives, with you beside us.

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How is the RNLI’s Respect the Water relevant to you?

Around 150 people drown at the UK and Irish coasts each year – and over half of them never planned to enter the water.

The RNLI’s Respect the Water campaign exists to ensure you know what to do if you fall into water.

Our main message to you is to fight your instinct and float to live.

We know not everyone has an opportunity to learn how to float in water, so on these pages you’ll find simple steps that you can follow to teach yourself how to float on your back.

 

If you see someone in trouble at the coast, call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard

Clothing can help you float

floating facts

The dangers of cold water shock

The science behind floating