There is nothing better than enjoying a lovely walk with your dog at the coast taking in sea air, grabbing some exercise and enjoying time with your friends and family. However, lifeboat crews and Coastguard Rescue Teams (CRT) are frequently called out to rescue dogs that have entered the water for one reason or another or fallen over the edge of a cliff. Sometimes their owners will enter the water to try and rescue them too. In 2019 RNLI crews were launched 157 times to incidents involving dogs.
Open Water Swimming in lakes, rivers and at the coast has really taken off in the last few years (particularly during the last year and in lockdown) and it is one of the largest growing sports in the UK. Swimmers tell us that it can significantly boost their mental wellbeing, fitness levels, mood, it’s highly invigorating, improves circulation and immune systems.
You can keep up to date with the Thanet RNLI Community Safety team on all the popular social networking sites including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram !
News stories and communications about our events and activities as well as safety advice are posted to these social networks virtually every day….so it is worth following us. Due to COVID-19 safety protocols our team have not been able to hold any public facing community engagements. Therefore we have tried our best to share as much as possible across our social media channels.
Dodging waves during sunny and calm weather can be great fun. However, on a stormy day just 15cm of water can knock you off your feet quite easily. What seems like fabulous fun to dodge waves that crash over harbour walls or onto a beach can easily lead to disaster during stormy weather conditions.
Angling is one of the most popular hobbies and sports enjoyed by a wide cross section of the community and at all age ranges. Between 2011-2015, 50 anglers tragically lost their lives while fishing around the UK coastline*.
Sadly, expert evidence from Professor Mike Tipton of Portsmouth University (2012) suggests that many of those lives might have been saved if the anglers had been wearing lifejackets.
If you are ill prepared and don’t know what to do things if things go wrong a nice day out can very easily turn into a nightmare. Colm Plunkett was wearing a lifejacket and had a plan when he got into difficulty whilst out angling. Check out the video below:
Here is some top safety tips to help you keep safe:
Should I let someone know where I am going and what time I will be back? Always let someone know where you will be fishing and what time you will be back. This will assist search and rescue teams with an area to start searching should you not return on time.
2. Carry a calling for help device such as a VHF radio or mobile phone in a waterproof case so that you can call for help if you get into difficulty.
3. Always wear a lifejacket no matter what type of weather/conditions or locations you are angling from. If you end up in the water and you are wearing a lifejacket, you are four times more likely to survive (Professor Mike Tipton Portsmouth University) More information on which lifejacket to wear – RNLI
5. What is ‘Float to Live’ – If you end up in the water, the RNLI recommend that you float on your back until you get your breath back. More information on Float to Live
6. Who Do I call in a coastal emergency at the coast? If you see an animal or person who you think is in difficulty in the water or at the coast phone ‘999’ or ‘112’ straightaway and ask for the Coastguard. Getting the right equipment and the correct rescue teams mobilised to the scene will have a significant impact on the outcome of the incident.
7. What is SafeTrx? Many anglers, divers, kayakers, open water swimmers and sailors are downloading the free SafeTrx mobile phone app which charts your passage and alerts an emergency contact if you fail to report in at an allocated time. Open water swimmers and divers are registering themselves as the ‘craft’ and will also notify the HM Coasguard if someone is late reporting in.
8. What clothing and kit should I pack for a fishing trip. Wearing a lifejacket will improve your chances by up four times if you end up in the water. Wearing crotch straps will also have a significant impact on the effectiveness of your lifejacket if you end up in the water. Why not check out the Henry Gilbey video below:
9. Is it better to take a mate along when I go fishing? There is always someone to share those great angling stories with over a cuppa or a bite to eat afterwards. Having a mate with you also ensures that there is someone to call for help if you get into difficulty.
10. Should I check tides and weather before I go fishing. It may seem obvious to check the tide times and weather forecast, but a recent lifeboat launch rescued two anglers who had been caught out by the tide. There are plenty of mobile device app’s which are free to download and use to show tide times and weather forecasts.
11. I have heard of Personal Locator Beacons, but what do they do? A PLB will increase the chances of search and rescue teams locating you quickly if you end up in the water in difficulty. There are plenty of examples of where sailors, kayakers and fishermen who have ended up in the water and have activated their PLB which has saved their life. They need to be registered with your details with the HM Coastguard.
12. What COVID-19 Safety Precautions should I take when I go fishing?
Drop us a DM on Facebook or Instagram if you would like your lifejackets checked for free or an ‘Advice on Board’ session (free check of your boat or craft to help you with safety). Please be aware that due to COVID-19 safety protocols we have had to suspend our lifejacket and Advice on Board sessions until further notice. However, we are happy to provide one-to-one advice over a virtual conference call.
*RNLI analysis of WAID UK fatalities accidental and natural causes only 2011-15 coastal data set
Whilst chatting at one of our team’s highly popular Coastal Dog Safety stands a dog owner asked us…”If I don’t have a mobile phone signal how can I call the Coastguard on the beach?” Your mobile can use any provider’s network for emergency calls to ‘999’ or ‘112’.
Some parts of the UK coastline and beaches do suffer from poor mobile phone reception. I noticed on one occasion trying to get a phone signal near impossible on Dumpton Gap in Thanet. However, changing position and moving up to the top of the cliff worked for the EE network when I needed to call the Coastguard via ‘999’ as a person had been cut-off by the tide.
We would always encourage people who take part in water activities such as kayaking, paddle boarding, canoeing, off-shore fishing or sailing to invest in a VHF radio and enrol on an RYA radio course. For coastal walking and most beach related activities a fully charged mobile phone in a waterproof case will be sufficient.
One of our Coastal Dog Safety events
Some phone’s will tell you this with ‘Emergency Calls Only’ on the screen. Even if the phone has no credit it will call. If you’re struggling to make a call in an emergency it’s worth trying the phone on the other side of your head as this maybe enough to block the signal.
How to call for help using your mobile phone
You can also try sending a text to ‘999’ (if pre-registered) if the phone signal is weak as a text may get through.
Here’s how to pre-register your mobile phone so that you can send an SMS to the emergency services
Send the word ‘register’ in an SMS message to ‘999’
You will then receive an SMS message about the service
When you have read these SMS messages reply by sending ‘yes’ in an SMS message to 999
You will receive a message telling you that your mobile phone is registered or if there is a problem about your registration
Your phone MUST BE registered before you use this service
Be aware that the text service may take longer than a normal ‘999’ call and it should only be used as a last resort – for example if calling ‘999’ and talking loud would put you in further danger or there is no mobile phone signal whatsoever
The SMS to ‘999’ must include which emergency service you need, a brief description of the emergency and your location (including any landmarks). An example of a good text “Coastguard required, one male in difficulty in the water Ramsgate main beach close to Wetherspoons. Ramsgate”.
Once you have sent a text you will receive a response which will ask for further detail, or indicate that help is en route.
Do not assume your message has been sent unless you receive a reply back sometimes this could take up to 2 minutes. If you do not receive any response try asking someone to call the emergency services.
Why not check out the RNLI mobile phone ‘calling for help’ leaflet below.
Carrying a ‘calling for help’ device such as a mobile phone is essential for taking part in any beach or coastal related activity. Knowing to call the Coastguard via ‘999’ or ‘112’ if you hear or see an animal or person in difficulty in the water straight away providing an accurate location is also essential knowledge if the correctly trained personnel and equipment can be sent to the scene as quickly as possible. Stay safe!
A big ‘Thank You’ to all our lovely followers and the fantastic people out there that help share our blogs on social media. This is hugely appreciated by our team and is essential to helping to get the drowning prevention and water safety messages out to as a wider audience as possible so that we can help prevent drownings and incidents at the coast.
Bodyboarding is of the most popular board sports invented, with a reported 20 million surfers and bodyboarder’s across the world with the number on the increase. Every bodyboarder has her/his own reasons for taking up the sport, however, the mixture of physical exercise, increase in wellbeing and mental health; being at one with nature; and getting a great dose of sunlight and sea air appear to be some of the the main benefits. Numerous self-help groups across coastal area’s have sprung up using bodyboarding to combat mental health issues.
Lifeguards and Lifeboat Crews are regularly called out to assist and deal with incidents involving bodyboarders. Here are some safety tips to help you stay safe whilst having a fun time:
Top 11 Body Boarding Safety Tips
1. Body Boarding is much more fun with a mate – It is always better to surf alongside another person for safety sake incase one of you should get into difficulty
2. Let someone know that you’re going out, the location & what is the latest time you will be back – this is so important incase the HM Coastguard/Lifeboat have to start a search
3. Check out the tide times and weather forecast – there are plenty of free smart device app’s available to download for weather forecasting and tide times
4. Have you considered the dangers of rip currents? They are the cause of a significant number of lifeguard call-outs every year. More information on rip currents
5. Be realistic about your limits. Even the most experienced bodyboarders have been caught out in the past.
6. Grab some training. There are a multitude of approved bodyboarding schools across the country. Why not grab a few lessons yourself before you head out for the first time.
7. Always wear a leash – So you don’t become separated from your board. If you have got hold of your board you will have something to keep you afloat should you get into difficulty. It will also help lifeboat and Coastguard crews locate you more easily.
8. Wear the correct wetsuit – As well as keeping you warm, wetsuits will give some additional protection from rock scrapes or surfboard impacts.
9. Always think about other surfers and water users – learn about surfer etiquette and rights of way
10. Know who to call in a coastal emergency – If you see or hear someone or an animal that you think is in difficulty in the water dial ‘999’ or ‘112’ and ask for the Coastguard straight away.
11.Bodyboard between the red and yellow flags – the lifeguards are an excellent source of local knowledge eg hazards, tide times, weather forecasts, injury prevention amongst others. The RNLI indicate that “British and Irish waters are incredibly unpredictable and one of the biggest dangers with bodyboarding is surfing outside of the red and yellow flag lifeguarded area, outside of lifeguard hours”.
RNLI lifeboat crews launched 18 times to bodyboarders in trouble in 2016. In addition, RNLI lifeguards went to the rescue in 883 bodyboarding related incidents. Over half of these incidents incidents involved rip currents.
We hope that you are looking forward to making the most of that extra hour in bed after the clocks went back marking the end of BST (British Summer Time) and reverting to GMT (Greenwich Mean Time). Of course that extra hour in bed in the morning results in the evenings getting darker earlier.
Walking, running or cycling home in the dark after a night out or a long shift you may decide to take a short cut to get home quicker which takes you close to open water.
Make sure you take care when walking past open water as what appears to be straight forward in the light can be totally confusing in the dark. Walkers and runners have the highest incidence of accidental drowning year on year.
The RLSS (Royal Lifesaving Society) indicate that from 2012-2016, 300 people unnecessarily lost their lives to drowning in the UK whilst running or walking by the water – that’s an average of 60 lives lost per year. An additional 35 people per year drowned while walking home intoxicated. Thirty nine percent of those accidental drownings took place at the coast, twenty five percent at a river and eleven percent at a canal.
Here are some top tips to help keep you safe whilst out walking or running during the winter months:
Be aware of your surroundings and take notice of any warning signs when out and about
When running or walking next to open water, stay well clear of bank edges and keep to paths
Always try and walk or run with a friend
Let someone know where you are going and what time you will be back
Carry a means of ‘calling for help’ such as a fully charged mobile phone in a waterproof case.
If you are at the coast check out the tide times and weather before you head out of the door
If you hear or see an animal or person in difficulty in the water, don’t enter the water dial ‘999’ ask for the Coastguard at the coast or on the River Thames; and for all other inland waterways ask for the Fire Service
Avon Fire and Rescue Service have highlighted the Stay Safe Around Water message by using the social media #MatesMatter and encouraging the sports team mantra of looking after the team. Our advice is to always check your mates have got home safely by messaging or phoning them. Your phone call could just save their life.
John Homer RNLI Community Safety Adviser says “winter time is still a great time to visit the coast, we have 19 miles of coastline in Thanet to explore, but taking a few precautions can really help prevent putting yourself and others in danger. Stay safe”.
‘International Control Room Week’ is all about celebrating and thanking those people who are at the end of a ‘999’ call. From 19th to the 25th October 2020 the week is dedicated to celebrating the achievements of truly remarkable people who are at the end of the phone or radio when we need them, keeping us calm, reassuring us and updating us. They stay strong, supporting us through the most challenging times.
HM Coastguard Operation’s Centre’s around the UK are staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Ready to take ‘999’ emergency calls or Mayday radio calls from someone who needs help at the coast, on the River Thames or at sea urgently. There is no doubt it’s a highly challenging and demanding role.
Coastguard Operation’s room staff ensure that search and rescue assets such as coastguard rescue teams, helicopters, lifeboats and other blue light services are in the right place where they need to be, at the right time – helping and supporting as the emergency situation unfolds.
This year is even more important than in previous years as the men and women based in the Coastguard Operation’s Room’s have continued to provide emergency capability right through out lock-down and continue to do so through the Corona Virus emergency.
To mark the celebration, APD Communications have also pledged to donate £1 to Mind the mental health charity every time #UnsungHeroes is used across social media and in the press during the 19th -25th October 2020. Mental Health has such a huge impact on the emergency services. With over 9 in 10 workers experiencing low mood, poor mental health and stress at some point whilst working for the emergency services. The challenging nature of the job, with its unique pressures puts staff at greater risk.
Please spare a thought for all the staff deployed in all control rooms providing essential communication, support and assistance to members of the public in times of need. Just some of those control rooms include: Police, Fire and Rescue Service, Ambulance Service, Highways Agency, Maritime Control, Border Agency, Coastguard, RNLI, Prison Service, Public Utilities, Armed Forces, St John’s Ambulance, Red Cross to name a few.
Below is a short video clip showing how the HM Coastguard would take an emergency call and despatch search and rescue resources. As a reminder if you hear or see an animal or person in difficulty in the water at the coast dial ‘999’ or ‘112’ and ask for the Coastguard.
You won’t have failed to notice that advances in technology in all aspects of our lives continues at a pace that no one would have ever imagined 20 years ago. Whether it is smart device app’s for turning your oven or heating on before you arrive home, ordering a takeaway which will be delivered to your home, booking a holiday on-line, driverless cars or military drone technology to name but a few.
If you are a keen follower of search and rescue news you may have read recently that the HM Coastguard in conjunction with Bristow (provider of the HM Coastguard helicopter Search and Rescue Service) rolled out a weekend unmanned aircraft (UAV) service across North Wales.
The unmanned aircraft (UAV) will provide ‘overwatch’ safety patrols from it’s base at Aberporth airport across beaches in North Wales including the Snowdonia mountain ranges. HM Coastguard’s helicopters provide support for inland search and rescue which includes mountainous areas, inaddition to the coastal environments and the UAV will be deployed to supplement these.
The Director of HM Coastguard, Claire Hughes said: “Search and rescue is about saving lives. Every second counts and every minute saved can prove the difference between life and death. This kind of technology has a big part to play in those moments alongside our helicopters, coastguard rescue teams and our partners from the RNLI to independent lifeboats and hovercraft.”
Russ Torbet, Director UK Search and Rescue, Bristow Helicopters Ltd, said: “UAV technology has advanced to the stage where its deployment significantly enhances the capability of air search and rescue operations, improving the reach of the service and reducing risk for the public and our crews.
Russ Torbet added “These systems provide us with an option to keep our Sikorsky S92 helicopter crew at Caernarfon on standby for lifesaving events, while the unmanned aircraft are tasked with providing safety ‘overwatch’ and monitoring which those manned aircraft would otherwise have been sent to carry out”.
Test flights have also been carried out during September 2020 using the Elbit Systems Hermes 900 as part of a program of events in West Wales. Among the advanced capabilities of the Hermes 900 UAV, which can fly for up to 24 hours at a time, is a system to deliver up to four six-person life rafts from an altitude of 600ft. Elbit the defence manufacturer says that it can deploy “in adverse conditions day and night” where a helicopter or fixed-wing aircraft could not help.
The Hermes UAV’s as trialled recently are not yet being deployed on ‘live’ operations, but are inaddition to the live trial currently being conducted by the use of remotely piloted aircraft by Bristow’s.
Back in July 2019, the HM Coastguard and RNLI trialled drones along the Essex coast in a year-long programme instigated by their county’s police force who are UK pioneers in the deployment of UAV’s.
Will Roberts, Senior Innovation Manager at the RNLI, says, “The situational awareness that drones provide can play a significant role in helping us locate casualties more quickly. When lives are at risk, the speed at which our lifeboat crews can locate and reach a casualty is vital. It also allows potentially dangerous situations to be risk-assessed before our teams are deployed to the scene.”
In 2018, the HM Coastguard and RNLI ran a week long trial at St Athan in Wales testing a variety of UAV’s including: rotary platforms, tethered drones and fixed wing platforms launched via a runway or catapult. Using a variety of different simulated rescue scenairo’s: mud rescue, shore-line search for a casualty, off-shore search for multiple casualties in the sea; and a communications blackspot where a drone is required to relay information between rescue teams and a cliff rescue.
In 2017 Caister Independent Lifeboat in Norfolk tested drones as part of their rescue work. A short video of their trial can be found below:
The UK government has said that it expected unmanned aircraft to fulfil an increasingly important role in search and rescue when it awards a new contract for the service in 2022.
Other Blue Light Services and Lowland Search and Rescue Teams have been deploying drones/UAV’s operationally for some time now with a good success rate. With technological advances, significant investment and a proactive approach to SAR capability it can be argued that we are going to see UAV’s playing a larger role in the UK’s maritime search and rescue scene. Coastguard Rescue Teams and lifeboat crews will always be essential in performing rescue operations at the coast, UAV’s will have their limitations, but any extra piece of rescue kit which will enhance and help save more lives at sea can only be a huge step in the right direction.
The operation of drones is strictly controlled by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) which requires licenses and qualifications. The use of private drones close to search and rescue operations or an emergency service incident is strictly forbidden and could hamper someone’s life being saved. For all information on drone operations please go to the CAA website
Tombstoning is an activity which has been around for many generations, unfortunately, due to recent incidents whereby three people tragically died in 2020 and many more suffered life changing injuries it has gained notriety.
Tombstoning is defined as the act of jumping in a straight, upright vertical position into the sea, river or other body of water from a high jumping platform such as a cliff top, bridge or harbour edge. The posture of the body, resmbling a tombstone that gives it’s name to the activity.
You may have read in the news or seen on social media that three people were seriously injured between 30-31st May at Durdle Door, Dorset. Here’s a video made by Ladbible in conjunction with the RNLI on a rescue by two beachgoers who saved a man from drowning after jumping off a cliff:
Tombstoning offers a high-risk, high-impact experience but it can have severe and life-threatening consequences. Consider these dangers first before you jump in:
The depth of water can alter rapidly with the tide – the water may be shallower than it first appears
Submerged objects like rocks, shopping trolley’s and broken bottles may not be visible – these can cause serious impact injuries
Cold water can make it difficult to swim
Getting oneself out of the water is often more challenging than people realise
Strong currents can rapidly sweep people away
What Should You Do Before Undertaking Tombstoning
Check for hazards in the water. Rocks, discarded shopping trolley’s or glass may be submerged in the water and difficult to see
Always check the depth of the water. Tides can rise and fall very quickly
A jump of ten metres requires a depth of at least five metres
Jumping into water under the influence of alcohol or drugs can distort your judgement and make you more suspectible to taking more risks
Check for access. It may be impossible to get out of the water
Consider the risks to yourself and others. Conditions can change rapidly – young people could be watching and may attempt to mimic the activity.If you jump when you feel unsafe or pressured, you probably won’t enjoy the experience.
Senior RNLI Lifeguard Supervisor, Stuart Cattell, said: “We know it can be very tempting during hot weather to jump into the sea from a pier or groyne, especially if you’re on the beach with a group of friends.
“Unfortunately it’s impossible to see hidden hazards under the surface, or to tell how deep the water is. Tombstoning means playing Russian roulette with your own safety.
“There have been 20 tombstoning deaths in the UK since 2005 and 70 reported injuries. Several people ahead of you might jump safely, but if you hit the beach – or a piece of wood or concrete on your way down – at the wrong angle, you could end up with life-changing head injuries, broken bones or permanently paralysis. Please stick to enjoying the weather and the sea by swimming or using kayaks or SUPs safely.”
The best way to learn about the risks involved and have a good experience is to try coasteering – a mix of scrambling, climbing, traversing and cliff jumping around the coast with a professional guide.
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