top of page

Cold water shock - Float to live campaign launched!


Over 700 people drown every year in the UK and Ireland and nearly half of drowning victims has no intention of ever entering the water.

Tragically more than half of UK drownings happen less than three meters from a safe refuge and two thirds of those who die were regarded as good swimmers. The cold water prevents many people from swimming to save their lives.

The water around the UK and Ireland is classed as cold water for the majority of the year and the average water temperature is between 12 and 15C – cold enough to cause cold water shock.

Cold water shock is a killer at the coast. When you first fall into cold water you will gasp involuntarily which poses a significant risk ingesting water if your face or head is underwater at the time. The sudden shock will also put significant pressure on your heart which could lead to a heart or stroke – regardless of your age.

Swimming will be extremely difficult, and you’ll struggle to use your arms and legs due to the rapid cooling of your body and you will finally lose consciousness. The impact of cold water shock happens in seconds but there is a way to minimise its effects.

Three simple words this summer can save your life – FLOAT TO LIVE.

If you find yourself unexpectedly in cold water, remember these three words. It will be a struggle as you will need to fight your natural instincts but lay back and simply float. Avoid thrashing around or trying to swim as this will quickly use up your energy and leave you fighting to survive.

The initial effects of cold water shock will pass in a few minutes and if you follow this extremely simple but effective method of just floating, you will greatly increase your chance of surviving a fall into cold water. Once you have controlled your breathing, you will be able to shout for help and hopefully swim to safety.

Cold water shock just doesn’t happen at the coast however -it also happens in bodies of water inland as well, including rivers, lochs and quarries.

Make this summer one to remember for all the right reasons – not the wrong ones. Never jump into water from height either at the coast or inland – it’s not worth risking your life for.

If you unexpectedly end up in cold water remember the three words that could save your life – FLOAT TO LIVE.

Search and Rescue - it's what we do.

In a coastal, beach or cliff emergency dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard.

bottom of page