It’s all about pagers!

The Umbirical Cord

I promised last week after a conversation with one of the Margate Yacht Club members to write a blog about RNLI pagers.  Well, as you can see from the photograph below, here it is.  The pager is what some RNLI crew call their umbilical cord, basically attached to you wherever you go or whatever you are doing. If you go to bed, it’s on the bedside table next to your clothes and car keys which are ready to go incase you get a shout in the middle of the night!

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So, how does the pager work?  If you are old enough like me, you may remember pagers that you could hire or buy so that friends, work colleagues or relatives to get hold of you even if you weren’t near a phone.  Basically, a very small electronic receiver encased in a plastic box which will receive a electronic signal that will convert into an audible tone and or visual message. Before the pager was introduced the lifeboat crews were alerted via maroons and a phone call from the Coxswain during the night time period.

Who sets the pagers off?

The UK Coastguard will receive an emergency call via the ‘999’ system from a member of the public indicating that someone or an animal is in the sea and needs assistance. The call could also originate from someone out at sea who has called ‘Mayday’ on their VHF radio channel 16 who is in trouble or has observed someone else in need of help. The Coastguard will then send a ‘launch request’ to the appropriate RNLI station.  The RNLI station Launch Authority will then call the Coastguard asking for details.  The launch authority will decide what happens eg ‘launch all boats’, ‘launch inshore boat’,launch all-weather boat’ or ‘launch none’.  The Coastguard will then page the appropriate lifeboat crew, who will make their way to the station as quickly as possible and kit up on arrival. The lifeboat crew will be selected and will receive a briefing from the Coxswain/helmsmen/hovercraft commander.  The boat(s) will then be launched with the assistance of the shore crew.

So, that’s a very brief overview of what happens, of course the process can vary depending on location.


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Emergency VHF radio calling  procedure

Read this really great article from the RNLI on-line magazine on the 11 memorable pager moments, I’m sure you will enjoy it!

You can download your own pager for your desk top or receive alerts via text message when your favourite lifeboat station is paged for launch.

If you want to know what the RNLI pagers sound like when they go-off have a look at this video. Be warned, this carries a health warning- if you are RNLI crew then it may make you jump!!

More information on what to do when someone needs help at sea check out the video below from the UK Coastguard: