Posted by: tommecrow | November 4, 2013

Simple Water Safety Messaging

For the past few months I’ve been working with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) to project manage the develop an ‘Aquatic Survival’ programme for low resource settings.

Based on the premise that 97% of drowning deaths occur in low and middle income countries, my aim has been to produce a simple set of resources that organisations can used to educate their communities about how to be safe around water.

Part of the programme has been to develop some simple ‘Water Safety Messages’ that are contextually appropriate for a low resource environment.

The first starting point was to look at the Open Water Guidelines that have already been developed by Dr Linda Quann, Elizabeth Bennett and their team and ‘context check’ them against the rural environments in which we planned to work (Uganda and Tanzania). We noted that a few of the messages would have to be modified to make them culturally and environmentally appropriate.

We coordinated a UK stakeholder group of drowning prevention and development experts (RLSS, RNLI, Nile Swimmers, and Plan UK) to ensure that our modifications were in line with current best practice, and liaised with partners in Uganda and Tanzania to ‘sense check’.

The following 10 Key Water Safety Messages were adapted by the group…


1) Know water and weather conditions before entering the water

2) Always test water depth before entering the water

3) Be aware of animals


4) Never enter the water alone

5) Obey all safety signs and warning flags

6) Know how and when to use a lifejacket

7) Always tell someone where and when you’re going swimming


8) Learn safe rescue techniques

9) Always supervise children in and around water

10) Keep your home safe

For each message we also highlighted ‘Why‘ the message was important, and a the ‘take home message‘ we wanted the learner to have. An illustration was also developed for each message and flash cards were created for ease of teaching.

We have since worked with our local partners (the Panje Project) to pilot the messages in schools in rural Zanzibar to make sure they were culturally and environmentally appropriate. We worked with local teachers to identify the best way to deliver the messages, and trained 10 local instructors. During a five day pilot in October 2013 approximately 2,300 children received the messages through a combination of song, drama, pictures and story telling.

Local and RNLI Aquatic Survival Project team with

The programme went very smoothly and initial feedback has been positive! Our next step is to modify the messages based on feedback from our partners, and then to conduct research into the best methods of delivery. Of particular interest is the retention of knowledge of the children using different delivery methods.

I’ll keep you posted of any developments!


  1. Amazing man. Keep it up. I can’t wait to catch up to hear more about it.

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