Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth lit up blue

University of Portsmouth researchers have partnered with the city landmark to raise awareness of water safety measures

24 July 2023


The University of Portsmouth and Hampshire & Isle of Wight Fire & Rescue Service (HFRS) have partnered with the Spinnaker Tower to promote World Drowning Prevention Day today (25 July).

The 170-metre high observation tower will turn blue along with other landmarks around the globe as part of a number of awareness activities. The World Health Organisation (WHO) international event aims to remind people that anyone can drown, but no one should.

There were 226 deaths in the UK from accidental drownings in 2022, across inland and coastal locations. Of the people who died 40 per cent had no intention of entering the water, such as those walking, with causes including slips, trips and falls, being cut off by the tide, or swept in by waves.

In 2023, the 76th World Health Assembly adopted its first ever resolution on drowning prevention. 

To mark the significance of this, researchers from the University’s Extreme Environments Research Group (EEG) are joining the National Water Safety Forum (NWSF) in encouraging people and organisations in the city to show their support for World Drowning Prevention Day

Dr Heather Massey, from the EEG and School of Sport, Health & Exercise Science, said: “Raising awareness about drowning is so important, but we should also know how to enjoy the water safely and know what to do if you see someone in difficulty. 

“WDPD 23 provides the opportunity to shine a light on all of these, at a time of year when many of us will be out enjoying our beautiful beaches, lakes and rivers.

“We’re really grateful to the Spinnaker Tower for turning blue, and helping to bring the awareness day to the attention of people in Portsmouth.”


World Drowning Prevention Day 23 provides the opportunity to shine a light on all of these, at a time of year when many of us will be out enjoying our beautiful beaches, lakes and rivers.

Dr Heather Massey, University of Portsmouth's School of Sport, Health & Exercise Science

One of the most impactful areas of the EEG's research lies in their work on drowning prevention, a global public health issue. Their efforts have also contributed to the RNLI's 'Respect the Water' and 'Float to Live' national water safety campaigns. 

Underpinned by EEG’s findings, these have successfully increased public understanding of the importance of floating as a primary survival behaviour in water-related emergencies. 

Float to Live | Professor Mike Tipton

The RNLI & EEL research shows that floating is different for everyone, where some people naturally float with little movement, others require gentle use of their hands and legs to stay afloat. 

If you find yourself in difficulty in the water:

  • Tilt your head back with ears submerged
  • Relax and try to control your breathing
  • Use your hands to help you stay afloat
  • It's OK if your legs sink, we all float differently

Tony Sammut, General Manager at Spinnaker Tower, said: “We’re honoured to support this cause and hope to remind people of the tragic impact of drowning on families and communities. We also want to highlight the work the NWSF are doing to offer life-saving solutions for drowning prevention.”

People are being encouraged to show their support for WDPD 23 on social media using the hashtag #DrowningPrevention be used, including for World #DrowningPrevention Day.

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