Helping someone in the water

Advice on what to do when someone in need of help in water

What you should do

Do not enter the water yourself

Entering the water could place you at risk and prevent you from being able to help.

Call 999

Immediately call 999 and ask for the attendance of the emergency services.

If you are inland ask for Police Scotland.

If you are at the coast ask for the Coastguard

Providing as much information as you can

This includes the location of the emergency, how many people are involved, and the nature of the emergency.

When asked for your locations, look out for:

  • water safety signs
  • street signs
  • smart phone apps
  • identifying local
  • geographic landmarks

What to do while you wait for emergency services

  1. Use your voice to contact the person on the water. Reassure them that Emergency Services are on route.
  2. Tell them to roll onto their back, extend their arms and legs into the star position and float. This conserves energy and allows for the effects of cold-water shock to pass in around 90 seconds.
  3. If they can do so, tell them to swim towards a place of safety either at the edge of the water or towards something that is buoyant and can support them.
  4. Look for nearby Public Rescue Equipment (PRE) such as a life ring or throwline. When doing so, try to maintain visual contact on the person in the water and only deploy PRE if it is safe to do so and doesn’t place you at risk.

Make sure they get checked

Any person that has been in the water should be checked by a medical professional. Ensure that they wait for the emergency services, even if they say that they are ok.

Further information

Further information on water safety and guidance on how to stay safe in and around water can be found at Water Safety Scotland