Belfast Harbour Police, the RNLI and LSAR mark World Drowning Prevention Day

To mark World Drowning Prevention Day  on  Monday 25 July the RNLI, Belfast Harbour Police and Lagan Search and Rescue (LSAR) hosted a water safety event in Belfast, engaging with the public to raise awareness of drowning as one of the leading causes of death globally for children and young people

An opportunity to promote water safety and raise awareness of drowning prevention, World Drowning Prevention Day is an UN initiative, developed in 2021.

According to latest estimates from the World Health Organisation, drowning is the cause of 235,000 deaths globally every year. According to statistics from the National Water Safety Forum, there were 20 deaths by drowning last year in Northern Ireland.

The RNLI, Belfast Harbour Police and Lagan Search and Rescue welcomed members of the public to a pop-up stand next to The Salmon of Knowledge (The Big Fish) at Donegall Quay in Belfast, where volunteers and Officers delivered water safety advice and taught people about drowning prevention measures, and how to stay safe around the water.

The RNLI is also supporting the National Water Safety Forum’s Respect the Water campaign, which aims to raise awareness of what to do if you see someone struggling in the water.

Speaking at the event, Killian O’Kelly, RNLI Water Safety Education Manager said: “We’re delighted to work in partnership with Belfast Harbour Police and Lagan Search and Rescue to highlight the importance of water safety to people in Belfast this World Drowning Prevention Day.

“Thousands of people lose their lives to drowning around the world every year, and we are keen to do everything we can to reduce this number and keep people safe around the water.”

The World Drowning Prevention Day event was part of a wider programme of investment by Belfast Harbour Police in water safety in recent years, which includes enhanced CCTV, with improved detection capability of potential immersion incidents, and water safety equipment and officer training. It also welcomed the arrival of its first fully equipped Police boat in 2021, which will improve water safety along Belfast’s popular waterfront. 

This ‘safety first’ focus has helped Belfast Harbour Police, along with partner Lagan Search and Rescue, reduce the percentage of water safety threats which escalated to full immersion incidents around Belfast’s waterfront, from 70% in 2019 to 24% in 2020.

Sergeant William Hunter commented on the partnership with the RNLI and LSAR: “World Drowning Prevention Day has provided us with another opportunity to work with our partners to engage with the public around water safety along Belfast’s waterfront. Combining our knowledge, experience and resources allows us to reach a wider audience, driving important messaging and raising awareness, and ultimately ensuring that Belfast Harbour is a safe and welcoming Port for Everyone”.

Across Northern Ireland, the RNLI reported that in 2021, lifeboats at Northern Ireland’s 10 stations launched 297 times bringing 370 people to safety, seven of whom were lives saved.

During last year’s lifeguard season, RNLI teams located on 11 beaches along the Causeway Coast and in county Down, responded to 330 incidents, coming to the aid of 384 people, one of whom was a life saved.

For more on World Drowning Prevention Day, the World Health Organisation has a wealth of information available on its website: You can also follow and use the hashtag #DrowningPrevention on social media.