Sea rescue teams are warning people to take care as they begin their busiest month of the year.
The summer months of June, July and August traditionally see the most call-outs for the RNLI – with August seeing the highest volume of incidents.
The North East was given a stark reminder of this in August 2016 when Liam Hall, 17, from Southwick, died in a dinghy incident near the Old Pier in Sunderland.
Last July and August, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution in the north of England launched their lifeboats in response to 321 emergencies – 158 in July and 163 in August – representing 31% of their total call-outs for the year.
Meanwhile, RNLI lifeguards in the region responded to 2,046 incidents on beaches during July and August – 79% of their total annual incidents.
The charity is worried after a new survey found that less than one-fifth – 16% – of people in the north say they would call 999 immediately to request help if they saw someone fall into open water.
The charity is reminding people to dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard in the event of an emergency at the coast.
As part of the RNLI’s drowning prevention campaign, Respect the Water, the charity is also calling on the public to help save more lives during this busy period by remembering and sharing key survival skills.
What to do if you or someone else is in danger in the water
If you see someone in danger in the water, fight any instinct to go in after them and instead call 999.
While summer air temperatures may be warm, the sea remains cold enough to trigger cold water shock, which causes the instinctive reaction to gasp and swim hard, which can quickly lead to drowning.
With around half the coastal deaths each year being people who accidentally slip or fall into the water, the RNLI’s second piece of advice is to fight your instincts to swim hard and thrash about.
Instead, float on your back for 60 to 90 seconds until the effects of cold water shock pass and you can catch your breath before then swimming to safety or calling for help.
Ben Mitchell, RNLI Community Safety Partner for the North, said: “With summer holidays upon us our beaches are naturally a draw for many people but this also means more people tragically losing their lives or getting into serious danger at the coast.
“We need to start a national conversation that encourages people to fight their instincts around water.
“We are asking people to remember and share two skills.
“The first is, if you see someone else in trouble, don’t go into the water yourself as you may also end up in serious danger.
Instead, dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard.
“The second is, if you fall into cold water, fight your instincts try to relax and float on your back, keeping your airway clear, for around 60–90 seconds. Just remembering these two simple points could help save your life, or someone else’s, this summer.”
Anyone planning a trip to the beach is also advised to choose a lifeguarded beach and swim between the red and yellow flags, which is the area most closely monitored by the lifeguards.