The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) has been working with partners behind the scenes through the challenges of lockdown to recruit, train and prepare their lifeguards for what is expected to be another busy summer on UK beaches.
The charity will deliver their usual lifeguard service across the UK and Channel Islands this year in its standard phased approach. The first set of beaches will go on service at the start of the Easter holidays with the number of beaches increasing through the season until the peak school summer holidays when over 240 beaches are reached.
In 2020, RNLI lifeguards saved 110 lives, aided 25,172 people and responded to 10, 687 incidents which included water rescues, minor first aid and helping to reunite missing children with their families.
Robbie Warrington, RNLI Head of Lifeguard Services, said: ‘RNLI lifeguards are at the forefront of the charity’s lifesaving work, offering preventative safety advice to visitors and rescuing those in difficulty in the water. Not only do they receive the best training but the best equipment too, so they are able to deal with any emergency situation as professional first responders.
‘Each year the RNLI works in partnership with local authorities and landowners to set up and roll out the lifeguard service, which is complex in normal times even without the challenges of doing so during a pandemic. However, we have been here before, and with the added benefit of being able to plan ahead, we have developed contingencies should things change.
‘The protocols and measures introduced last year because of coronavirus will continue. We are working with local authorities and landowners, who ask us to provide a lifeguard service on their beaches, to make sure the environment for lifeguards to return to is safe. We will continue to monitor the risk to our people and the public in relation to the pandemic.’
RNLI lifeguards will begin patrolling 50 beaches across the UK and Channel Islands from Easter and this will build over the coming months. The RNLI are encouraging the public to follow government advice on social distancing, travel and contact with others when visiting the beach to keep themselves and our lifeguards safe.
Gareth Morrison, Head of Water Safety, said: ‘RNLI lifeguards play a vital role in keeping beach visitors safe, but they can’t be everywhere, so will be supported by the charity’s 24/7 lifeboat service and water safety work. This comprehensive water safety education programme involves working with partners, local communities and the public to help everyone enjoy a safe visit to the coast.
‘Coastal areas provide a great opportunity to enjoy fresh air and open space but it is important to remember it can be an unpredictable and dangerous environment, particually during spring and early summer when air temperatures warm but water temperatures remain dangerously cold, increasing the risk of cold water shock. We’d therefore remind anyone entering the water to take extra care and avoid unessessary risks as early season conditions are more challenging.
‘Whatever you chosen activity though, basic precautions can greatly reduce the risk of getting into difficulty, and also improve your chance of being found quickly should you need rescuing. For activities like kayaking and paddleboarding we’d recommend you carry a means of calling for help on your person, such as a mobile phone in waterproof pouch, and ensure you are wearing the right kit. A wetsuit will keep you warm and help you float in an emergency, but wearing an appropriate buoyany aid or lifejacket is stil vital. For open water swimmers and dippers, please also remember to aclimatise slowly and be visible with a bright hat.’
The RNLI is urging anyone choosing to visit the coast to make sure they keep themselves and their families safe by following beach safety advice along with the government’s advice on travel and social distancing:
- Visit a lifeguarded beach and swim between the red and yellow flags – we have a number of patrolled beaches around the coast from the Easter holidays – find your nearest at rnli.org.uk/lifeguardedbeaches
- Check the weather forecast, tide times and read local hazard signage to understand local risks
- If you fall into the water unexpectedly, FLOAT TO LIVE. Fight your instinct to thrash around, lean back, extend your arms and legs, and Float.
- In an emergency dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard.
You can keep up to date with relevant water safety advice on social media by searching #RespectTheWater so that you can an enjoyable and safe time at the coast.
If you are a local business near the coast you can help the RNLI share key water safety messages and save lives by becoming a local ambassdaor. As a local ambassador you can help be the eyes and ears in your community by helping the RNLI share important water safety messages with more people. To find out more visit: https://rnli.org/support-us/volunteer/volunteering-opportunities/rnli-local-ambassador
(Lead image: RNLI / Nathan Williams)