Over a thousand children across the Wirral have learned water safety skills ahead of the summer school holidays through a partnership between a local swimming school and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI).
During a week of sessions in July, the Helen Diamond School of Swimming taught 1,148 of its young pupils the key RNLI safety technique ‘float to live’ in the swimming pools at Stanley School in Pensby, from Birkenhead High School Academy and Calday Grange in West Kirby.
Dave Bates, Hoylake RNLI lifeboat crew member and water safety advisor, was invited to join the team at some of the sessions, where he spoke to children and their parents about the importance to float if they have difficulty in the water.
Dave was joined in a session by fellow volunteer Kev Latcham, where they passed on some of the RNLI’s other tips for staying safe at the beach, such as stopping to think about the dangers, sticking together and swimming only where there are lifeguards while staying between their red and yellow flags.
With many families heading to the coast or the pool on their holidays in the UK and overseas, these vital skills will help them stay safe in and around the water this summer and beyond.
Following the swimming sessions, parents and supporters kindly donated £499.22 to the RNLI to support the association’s 24-hour search and rescue service and drowning prevention work. Helen Diamond also made a very generous personal donation of £1,000 and visited Hoylake RNLI Lifeboat Station to present the rescue funds to the grateful crew of the lifeboat.
Helen has been teaching swimming for nearly 30 years and it is a family business as her two daughters are also qualified swimming teachers. Among the school’s 50 staff are a number of RNLI lifeguards, who have a genuine passion for swimming and water safety.
Helen said: “Thank you to the Hoylake RNLI team for an amazing week supporting our swim school in raising water safety awareness ahead of the summer. We know the dangers too well. After some recent tragic losses of youngsters in the water, the message cannot be emphasized enough.
“Last year we took the RNLI’s ‘float to live’ messages into our courses and this year we did it all. It was wonderful to have the support of Dave who could spend time talking to children and adults. The fact that Dave had a huge impact, as one child said, “he’s a real lifesaver!”
“It is so important to understand why we learn to swim, how to be safe, and to educate adults that sitting by a pool for years watching swimming lessons can literally save a life. I always liken it to learning to read and write, it’s a skill we need.
After the sessions, a parent added: “Our son instantly picked up the float technique after last week’s lesson and was practicing our family swim this weekend.”
Dave Bates said: “When I give water safety sessions I often find myself telling people how to float, but Helen and her team went above and beyond and showed them how. Teaching them in clothes or pajamas also gave children the opportunity to experience being in the water while clothed.
“These children are already learning to swim, but there is so much more to be done to be safe in and around water. RNLI messages and these skills can save your life, whether you’re a non-swimmer or a county champ, especially if you’ve fallen in cold water.
“I am so grateful to Helen and her team for giving us the opportunity to speak to her swimmers and their families about water safety. It was a very successful event and I look forward to working with him again in the future.
Dave added: ‘We are overwhelmed by the generosity of the parents and especially Helen as she has worked so hard to organize these vital sessions. Their kind donations will help the RNLI continue to save lives at sea and on the coast this summer.
Notes to editors
When in cold water (any temperature below 15°C), the human body may experience cold water shock. If this happens, people may lose control of their breathing and movement. The cold water shock also causes a rapid increase in heart rate and blood pressure, which can lead to cardiac arrest.
The average sea temperature around the UK and Ireland is only 12°C. Inland waters like lakes, rivers, lochs and reservoirs can be colder even in summer.
If you have difficulty in the water, float to live:
1. Fight the urge to struggle
2. Lean back and extend your arms and legs
3. Move them gently to help you float if you need them
4. Float until you can control your breathing
5. Only then call for help or swim to safety
In an emergency on the coast, dial 999 and ask for the Coast Guard.
RNLI Media Contacts
For more information please contact:
RNLI Public Relations on 01202 336789
The charity RNLI saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service along the coasts of the UK and the Republic of Ireland. The RNLI operates 238 lifeguard stations in the UK and Ireland and over 240 lifeguard units on beaches in the UK and the Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of the coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its lifesaving service. Since the RNLI’s inception in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved more than 142,700 lives.
Find out more about the RNLI
Contact the RNLI – public inquiries
Members of the public can contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or by email.