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RoSPA 2021 Water Safety Conference

The RoSPA Water Safety Conference 2021

Last year, around 236,000 people across the globe died from drowning, making it one of the leading causes of fatal unintentional injury worldwide. In April, the United Nations passed its first ever resolution on Global Drowning Prevention, affirming the fact that drowning is preventable.

What is the Water Safety Conference?

The RoSPA Water Safety Conference 2021 will focus on current developments in water safety, in specific reference to the recent UN resolution on drowning prevention, and how the UK can work towards meeting this challenge.

Through a global, national and local lens, the conference will draw on examples of research, partnership working, collaboration and the future for water safety and drowning prevention in the UK.

Who is the conference for?

The conference is suitable for anyone with responsibility for water safety or managing sites that feature water hazards.


Please note: speaker’s presentations will be sent out to delegates in advance of the event date, to watch at their own leisure.

Delegates will have the chance to put their questions to the speakers at the LIVE event on Thursday, November 18, where these will be discussed and answered in a monitored Q&A session. The LIVE event will also break into short facilitated sessions, discussing ideas for what’s next for the UK and our drowning prevention strategy as we move into the review in 2022.

The event will be opened by Errol Taylor, RoSPA’s Chief Executive.

The Global Lens

The UN Resolution and what it means for the world and for the UK

Gemma May (RNLI)

Drowning Prevention as a public health epidemic

Speaker TBC

The National Lens

Five years on from the UK’s Drowning Prevention Strategy – featuring highlights from Water Safety Scotland and Water Safety Wales

Dawn Whittaker (NWSF Chair)

Fighting for water safety - a family perspective

Rebecca Ramsay

'Respect the Water' and the NWSF’s Campaign

Gareth Morrison

Using what we know in behavioural science to help improve water safety

Dr Fiona Fylan, Brainbox

Smart Buoy – using smart technology with Public Rescue Equipment

Kieran Murphy, ZiggyTec

The Water Incident Database (WAID) 2012 to 2019: a systematic evaluation of the documenting of UK Drownings

Martin Barwood, Leeds Trinity and Dr Sam Hills, Bournemouth University


Speaker biography coming soon.

Gemma joined the RNLI in 2017. As Advocacy Manager in the institution’s International Team, Gemma works with colleagues to deliver of core elements of the organization’s global influence strategy, including relationships with UN agencies and governments, including WHO and UNICEF.

Since 2018, she has served as Secretariat for the Group of Friends on Drowning Prevention, a coalition of UN Member States in New York, that worked to secure the first UN Resolution on Global Drowning Prevention (April 2021), under the political championing of the Governments of Bangladesh and Ireland

Gemma was previously a UK Civil Servant, holding roles in domestic and international government departments from 2004-2017. Latterly as a Climate and Environment Adviser for the (former) UK Department for International Development, where she was responsible for the design and management of USD $16 million portfolio of sustainable energy and health programmes in Africa and South-East Asia, with partners including WHO and the UN Foundation. She also she served as UK policy lead for the UN Secretary-General’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative, and sustainable energy discussions within G7 and G20 processes.

Gemma holds tertiary qualifications in Agriculture and Natural Resources Management (BSc), International Development, Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation (MA) and Cross-Sector Partnership (PG Cert).

Speaker biography coming soon.

Rebecca runs a Water Safety Campaign called “Doing it for Dylan” in memory of her first born son, Dylan Ramsay, who sadly lost his life in 2011 while swimming in open water.

Over the past decade she has been a water safety/drowning prevention advocate, and has campaigned for many things around better open water safety, teaching people about the dangers in and around open water.

She has fought for better water safety education to be taught in schools as part of the national curriculum, and had a successful petition reaching 108,000 signatures, which was recently debated in Parliament.

Rebecca has inspired many to do more where water safety is concerned – speaking to over 170,000 children, teens, young people and adults about her cause in the past decade alone.

Dawn Whittaker joined Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service in 2004, as a senior manager, with a background in business management in both local government and the private sector, becoming Deputy Chief Fire Officer in 2008. In 2015/16 she undertook a secondment to central Government as a professional Fire and Rescue Adviser, specifically advising on emergency service collaboration and fire safety in prisons.

Dawn moved to East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service in June 2016 as Deputy Chief Fire Officer and was appointed Chief Fire Officer in October 2017.

She was a Trustee and Chair of the Board of a Northampton voluntary infustructure organisation for 10 years and was until recently, also the Chair of the Board of Trustees for the Royal Lifesaving Society UK.

A Chief Fire Officer Association (CFOA) (now known as the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC)) member since 2006, Dawn has led the development of the Council’s approach to drowning prevention and water safety, supporting all UK based Fire Services with an interest in this prevention work. Dawn represents NFCC on the National Water Safety Forum Co-ordinating Group and has been actively involved in the development of the U.K. National Drowning Prevention Strategy, launched at Westminster in February 2016.

Dr Martin Barwood has 18 years of research experience in the area of Environmental Physiology focusing on human responses to cold water immersion. His work has been applied to improving open water safety guidance and preventing drowning. During his early career at Portsmouth University he was the honored recipient of the BNFL and RoSPA research scholarship award. This published research examined the floatation characteristics of adults, adolescents and children on immersion and established the potential benefit to buoyancy of air trapped between clothing layers. This work culminated in the safety maxim to “float first” on accidental immersion to maximize the chances of surviving the life-threatening cold shock response that is evoked in the first few minutes of immersion.

Dr Barwood is now based at Leeds Trinity University as a Reader in Physical Activity and Health and maintains an active research interest in open water safety. This year he is presenting collaborative work on the National Water Safety Forum’s Water Incident Database (WAID) completed with colleagues from Bournemouth University (Dr Sam Hills), Canterbury University, New Zealand (Dr Matthew Hobbs) and Portsmouth University (Prof Mike Tipton). This project looked at whether WAID meets step 1 of the guidance from the World Health Organization’s 2017 drowning prevention implementation framework. This research has the aim of analyzing existing data and improving data collection methods. His presentation will share their findings with the open water safety community and provide onward recommendations to improve data collection in future iterations of WAID.


Thursday 18 November, 2021


13:00 GMT



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