Frequently Asked Questions

Do you need an answer to a question about coastal safety?  Have a look at our most commonly asked questions below.

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If I am planning a visit to the beach or coast what safety precautions should I take?

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Should I take any precautions for COVID-19 when visiting the coast or beach?

Please adhere to your respective government’s safety guidelines regarding COVID-19 and respect social distancing at all times. Please consider whether you should travel to a beach and remember to follow guidelines regarding travelling only with your household.

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What safety devices should I carry whilst walking or enjoying the coast?

Carrying a fully charged mobile phone or a VHF radio in a waterproof case will enable you to call for help if you get into difficulty or see an animal or person in the water in trouble.

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Which emergency service do I call if I saw someone in difficulty at the coast or in the water?

If you see or hear an animal or person in difficulty in the water dial ‘999’ or ‘112’ ask for the Coastguard straight away, giving an accurate location, the nature of the incident, the number of people involved and any other useful information eg nearest landmark, any update on the situation.  Have you downloaded the What3Words app yet?

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I see safety signage close to beaches and coastlines. But, what does it all mean?

When visiting the beach or coastal area always be on the look out for safety signage and take on board the advice.  This could entail tidal cut-off warnings (pictured above) often with times that the cut-off’s occur,  no swimming, crumbling cliff edge’s, no lifeguards on duty etc.

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What precautions should I take to keep my four legged friend safe at the coast?

If you intend on taking your beloved four legged friend to the coast, always keep them on a lead close to cliff or harbour edges as lifeboat crews and Coastguard Rescue Teams are frequently called out to dogs that have fallen off cliff’s often when chasing a seagull.

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I keep hearing people talking about checking the tides and weather before they venture out onto the beach. What do they really mean? 

Remembering to check tide times and the weather forecast will help prevent you from getting cut-off by the tides and caught out by the weather.  The area’s of the Isle of Thanet that get are more prone to tidal cut-off’s are: Botany Bay, Kingsgate Bay, Stone Bay and environs; and Dumpton Gap.  

There are a whole host of free to download and use app’s and websites to check the tides and weather from.  You may find our blog on ‘Do You Know How To Check The Tide Times’ useful to read.  Other useful resources include Magic Weed and the Met Office. Tide Forecast, Tide Times.

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I have seen the tide come in quickly in the past, but how can I stay safe without getting cut-off by the tide?

Always keep an eye on your surroundings at all times as it is very easy to get caught up in admiring the great coastal views, taking a selfie or whatever activity you are taking part in.  Tides can come in very fast keeping an eye out and will help you get out of a dangerous situation.

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I like my photography and I am keen to get a good photograph close to a cliff edge how do I stay safe?

The HM Coastguard Rescue Teams are frequently called out to people who ignore safety signage and their warnings to stay away from cliff edges and the underneath of cliff’s which are susceptible to collapse.   Always keep away from cliff edges, no selfie is worth risking your life or the lives of others.  

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  1. Keep Alert – Don’t expect a casualty to be shouting for help, if you are not sure shout out to them and ask “do you need help”?
  2. Resist the temptation to enter the water
  3. Dial ‘999’ or ‘112’ straight away before you do anything else. Ask for the Coastguard if at the coast or River Thames or Fire Service if inland eg river, canal, lake, quarry, loch or pool.
  4. Shout and signal them to try and stay calm and float on their back, remind them to kick their legs out gently.
  5. Find a rescue aid such as a life ring, throw bag or other public rescue equipment. If you can’t find anything try throwing something that will float like a football.
  6. Safe rescue – before you pull the casualty in, get down one knee or lie down so that you don’t fall in.

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I have seen a video showing you how to float if you fall into the water unexpectedly. How can I do this?

Resist the temptation to panic and thrash around, FLOAT ON YOUR BACK until you get your breathing under control.   Try to get hold of something that will help you float, call for help or swim for safety if you’re able.

Check out this video to find out more:

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I’ve heard alot about cold water shock what does cold water shock really mean?

The effect on the body of entering water 15°C and below is often underestimated. This shock can be the precursor to drowning. 

Anything below 15°C is defined as cold water and can seriously affect your breathing and movement, so the risk is significant most of the year.

Average UK and Ireland sea temperatures are just 12°C. Rivers such as the Thames are colder – even in the summer.

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Emily’s Code

What precautions should I take if I use a personal water craft (PWC), dingy, kayack, sailing boat or canoe at the coast?

Follow Emily’s Code: wear a lifejacket or buoyancy aid (make sure you get it serviced yearly and checked), service your equipment regularly, get some training, make a plan, know your limits, carry distress signals, use a kill cord (if applicable), know your boat, have a radio, check the weather and tides.

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I am planning a walk along the coast with my family at the weekend. Should I let someone know where we are going and what time we will be back?

Always let someone know where you are going eg which beach, area of the coast and what time you will be back.  This will ensure that the Coastguard can task search and rescue teams to the correct location should you get into difficulty.

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I enjoy walking and running around the coast during the early morning and evening what special precautions should I take to stay safe along the coastline?

Be wary of all edges around the sea and water. Slips and falls can happen in all locations; it is not just high cliff edges that are a risk.   Area’s which you maybe familiar with during day light hours will look totally different at dusk or in the dark.  Wear a head torch, let someone know the route you are taking and what time you will be back; download the What3Words app

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I’ve heard alot talked about rip currents, but don’t fully understand what they are?

Waves that break on beaches create currents in the surf zone. The surf zone is defined as the region between the shoreline and the point where the waves are breaking.

Rip currents are seaward-directed flows of water driven by breaking waves that originate close to the shoreline and extend seaward across the surf zone, and beyond. Lifeguards commonly refer to them as ‘a body of water flowing out to sea’ following ‘a path of least resistance’.

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I am keen to keep myself and my family safe whilst at the coast and beach. How can I find out more information to help keep them safe?

If you would like to find out more information about water safety and drowning prevention then why not sign-up to our e-newsletter.

We publish regular blogs on all RNLI and water safety related topics. Discover our latest published blogs

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I am interested in learning more about the work of our local lifeboat stations? 

Why not check out Margate and Ramsgate lifeboat stations dedicated pages