When someone’s struggling in the water, the instinct to jump in and help can be overwhelming, but it can quickly lead to tragedy without the right training or equipment. The water is unpredictable and a rescue for one can very quickly become a search for two. Stay on land and make the right call, CALL 999

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Which emergency service?

The emergency service you need will differ depending on whether you are by the coast or inland.

Hover or tap on the images below to find out which service to ask for in an emergency.

A pier and the beach next to the sea

Ask for Coastguard


The British coastline

Ask for Coastguard


A big wave in the sea

Ask for Coastguard

At Sea

A lake with mountains

Ask for Fire & Rescue*

Lakes & Lochs

Canal boats in a canal with trees

Ask for Fire & Rescue


Water in a reservoir

Ask for Fire & Rescue


Water in a Quarry

Ask for Fire & Rescue



Ask for Fire & Rescue*


*Be aware HM Coastguard have delegated responsibility for Search and Rescue coordination for some inland waters, so please ask for the Coastguard at the following inland locations:

  • River Thames in London up to Teddington Lock
  • Lake District – Windermere, Coniston Water, Derwent Water & Ullswater
  • Norfolk – The Broads
  • River Severn up to Gloucester
  • Northern Ireland – Lough Neagh, Lower Lough Erne, Upper Lough Erne,
  • Scotland – Loch Ness, Loch Oich, Loch Lochy, Upper River Clyde

In Scotland, please also note that the responsibility at Loch Lomond lies with a different emergency service, so call 999 and ask for the Police.

If in doubt check local signage but don’t hesitate to call 999 immediately as the operator will help send the appropriate emergency service.

What to do

If you see someone in trouble in the water, the best way you can help is by staying calm, staying on land, and following the 3-step rescue guide – Call, Reach and Throw.



999 and ask for the right service



them to float on their back



them something that floats

World Drowning Prevention Day

We are proud to take part in World Drowning Prevention Day (WDPD), a global event set up by the World Health organisation. WDP runs every year with the aim of highlighting the tragic and profound impact of drowning on families and communities and offer life-saving solutions to prevent it.

Find out more
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