Our team are regularly asked at events who to call in the event of someone finding legacy military ordnance or a marine pyrotechnic (flare) on the beach or in the sea. Amongst some of the HM Coastguard’s multifaceted roles includes investigating objects which have been washed up onto the coastline which may present a danger to coastal users.
Have you heard of ‘What 3 Words‘? You may have already downloaded the app? Emergency Service personnel around the country are raving about how important and vital this app is.
But, what exactly is it? Using three-word addresses it gives callers a simplified method to describe exactly where assistance is required and allows emergency services to despatch their asset (fire appliance, ambulance, Coastguard, Search and Rescue team, police vehicle etc) straight to the scene of the incident. Wasting valuable time trying to locate a person who is in urgent need of help could result in literally life or death.
‘What3words‘ is a British company who have divided the globe into three metres by three metre squares and given each square a unique three word address for example – ///prove.bids.deny, will take you to Ramsgate Lifeboat Station.
The app is free to download for Apple and Android or by browser and works offline. Hence making it ideal for use in rural or remote areas and where there is inconsistent data coverage. The three word format is also available worldwide and in twenty six different languages.
You may argue that the UK is already covered by the postcode system and street names are prominent in the majority of areas. However, some postcodes cover a wide area and the same street name may crop up several times in one town or city.
Emergency Service call handlers can send people who ring them an SMS message that contains a link to the what3words map, where they can see their location and immediately read the corresponding three-word address. BT, EE and Plus Net mobile customers can find their what3words address without using any of their data via a link the emergency call handler will send them during the call.
What 3 Words can be effective for emergency calls in sparseley populated locations such as at the beach, coastal areas, moors or farmland where it can be very challenging to communicate a location without any address or points of reference nearby.
One Fire Service call handler told us that she quite often has callers in a rural area describe their location by the colour of farm gates or the name of the farmer believing that they were speaking with the nearest fire station.
This new innovative location technology will help get help quickly to the correct location. Another example was the app was used to locate a group of walkers who got lost in a dense wood in County Durham during August.
Chris Sheldrick, co-founder and CEO of what3words, said: “Being in need of urgent help and not being able to easily describe where you are can be very distressing for the person involved and a really difficult situation for emergency services. “Today, people nearly always have their phone on them. We need to use the tools at our disposal to improve public services and potentially save lives.”
The app has also been adopted by groups and individuals to map treasure hunts and meeting places. As well as the serious nature of the app it can be good fun too. For example the front door to Downing Street is //slurs.this.shark
Save locations that you regularly walk or run
Why not find out the ‘what3words’ of nearby location’s where you go for a walk or run so you can save their locations in case you need them in the future.
Emergencies at the coast?
Coastguard Operation Rooms across the UK can access ‘What 3 Words’ as part of a suite of tools to locate those in distress. There isn’t always mobile phone coverage at sea, so carry a VHF radio or Personal Locator Beacon as well to call for help. The RNLI Operations Room at their headquarters in Poole have said….. “What3Words is a brilliant tool which can save lives particularly in area’s such as beaches where reference points are hard to find. We would always encourage use of established systems and would hope casualty reports are given using map/chart references whenever possible”….
‘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.
Our Coastguard colleagues have in the past carried out a public survey and they report that half of the people they questioned did not know that they should dial ‘999’ and ask for the Coastguard for a coastal emergency. Here are just some of the incidents which the Coastguard should get called to (The list is not exhaustive):
▪️Person in the water
▪️Someone shouting/waving for help from a boat,
▪️Someone stuck on/fallen from a Coastal cliff,
▪️Someone stuck in Coastal mud or quicksand,
▪️Boat sinking or on fire
▪️Persons floating out to sea on a lilo
▪️Distress flare sighted
▪️Persons jumping from quay walls and putting themselves in danger
▪️Persons “Wave Dodging” and putting themselves in danger
▪️Someone gone kayaking at the Coast and not back at the time they said they would be
▪️Someone injured on a beach
▪️Someone cut off by the tide
▪️Child(ren) lost on the beach
▪️Marine Pyrotechnics (flares) or suspected Military Ordnance found on a beach
Here is the procedure in the event of spotting a coastal emergency:
1.Dial ‘999’ or ‘112’ (European Emergency Number) and ask for the Coastguard
2.Describe your location, if you don’t know exactly where you are use a clear description, landmarks or try and find someone who knows the area. On some smart phones the compass app will also display the position as latitude and longitude. Alternatively, use an app such as OS locate or What3words
3. Describe the number of people, animal and or craft that is involved
4. Describe the problem = what you can see and or hear
5. Give any further information such as closet access point for emergency services and any further updates on injuries to casualties
If you are a sailor, yachtsmen or other water sport enthusiast who has purchased flares or pyrotechnics, you will have asked …..”how should I dispose of flares or time expired pyrotechnics (TEP’s) safely”.
The advice is to firstly contact your supplier where you purchased the flares from and enquire whether they offer a ‘take back facility’ which may incur a small charge. Alternatively, speak with a life-raft maintenance centre or enquire with your council recycling centre.
If the flares are still unable to disposed of safely then you are recommended to contact your nearest Coastguard licensed site. Please bear in mind that due to current COVID-19 safety protocols being operated by the HM Coastguard it may not be possible to dispose of them via this route at this time.
The nearest CGOC (Coastguard Operations Centre) for East Kent is based at Dover and can be contacted on 01304 210 008.
Other licensed coastguard disposal locations are as follows:
National Maritime operations centre (licensed site Daedalus training centre) Tel 02392 552 100.
CGOC Stornoway Tel: 01851 702 013.
London Coastguard operations base Tel: 02083 127 380
RNLI headquarters Poole Tel: 01202 336 336.
(Reference : Maritime Coastguard Agency website)
The HM Coastguard have no responsibility for flare disposal and will only accept a small number at their discretion from private indviduals and small independent fishing vessels.
On contacting the relevant CGOC they will ask the following questions:
Who you have previously contacted to arrange disposal
How many flares you need to dispose
How old are the flares
What condition are the flares in
If the CGOC can help, they will arrange for a time for you to deliver the flares to an appropriate base/location where staff will be able to accept them safely
You may be asked to travel a significant distance to attend a disposal site and wait several weeks
It is worthy to note not to turn up without an appointment at a HM Coastguard premises as you are likely to be turned away (not all premises are staffed 24/7) flares can’t be accepted from a business organisation.
Flares are highly dangerous
DO NOT dump carrier bags of flares on the doorstep of Coastguard Station’s, Coastguard Rescue Equipment Stores, Fire Stations, Police buildings or Lifeboat Station’s. Many of these locations maybe unstaffed and the dumping of potentially dangerous flares is a safety hazard and against the law. Irresponsibly discarded flares may be picked up by children who could be seriously injured or killed by an abandoned pyrotechnic. In one incident a military Explosive Ordnance Disposal team had to be called out to a device which had been left outside a Coastguard station which also put the Coastguard team unavailable for emergency calls.
Do not put flares in household rubbish, garden waste or public litter bins. They can cause extensive damage to refuse collection facilities and may injure persons who come into contact with them. An incident involving a worker at a recycling centre found out to his cost.
As a reminder
It is illegal to fire flares on land or in a harbour; fire flares at sea for testing, practice or as fireworks
Damaged or out of date flares should never be used.
It is illegal to dump pyrotechnics at sea.
Every year lifeboat crews and Coastguard Rescue Teams are called out to the sighting of flares out at sea. Whilst personnel from both organisations will never complain about being called out to an emergency or what looks to be someone in need of help, in whatever weather and at any time of the day or night they urge people not to let off flares at sea unless it is a genuine emergency.
Our team are very proud to support the The Emergency Services Day which begin’s at 9am on 9th September annually (9th hour of the 9th day of the 9th month) with two minutes’ silence to remember emergency services personnel killed as a result of their duties. Normally there would be a series of events across planned across the UK, however, these have been cancelled due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The media and social media part of the 9th September will continue to go ahead. Fear not the Emergency Services day posters, leaflets and information can be downloaded via their website here
What is the aim of the day
To promote the work of the emergency services, promote efficiency, educate the public, and promote volunteering opportunities. Volunteers are an essential part of the emergency services and they play a core part in keeping Britain safe. Such volunteering roles include; Special Constables, Retained Firefighters, NHS Community Responders, St John Ambulance, RNLI, Search and Rescue and Coastguard volunteers. Our team will be showing their support by sharing content on social media and talking to our community about how important the day is. Keep following our social media channels to find out more.
The Emergency Services Day is also part of the Emergency Services Memorial, the ‘999’ Day is an excellent opportunity for other emergency services charities to fundraise, raise their profile and participate in this event. The day is inspired by Armed Forces Day (AFD), our team are proud to proud to support this event and promote the work of all emergency services across the UK.
Want more information
Would you like to get involved in Emergency Services Day? More information on how to get involved
Ever wondered how the ‘999’ Emergency telephone system came about? Well it’s the 82nd anniversary of the World’s first emergency system, today Sunday 30th June. Here is a video illustrating the start of the service in 1937:
It first saw service in the London area. The system was introduced following a fire in a house in Wimpole Street on 10 November 1935, in which five women were tragically killed. A neighbour attempted to telephone the fire brigade and was so outraged at being held in a queue by the Welbeck telephone exchange that he wrote a letter to the Times Newspaper Editor, which prompted a government inquiry.
The initial scheme covered a twelve mile radius around Oxford Circus in London and the public were advised only to use it in ongoing emergency if “for instance, the man in the flat next to yours is murdering his wife or you have seen a heavily masked cat burglar peering round the stack pipe of the local bank building”. The first arrest for burglary took place a week later and the scheme was extended to major cities after World War II and then to the whole UK in 1976.
One of our key safety messages that we share when out and about is “do you know who to call in a coastal emergency?’ Over half the people we speak to unfortunately don’t know to call the Coastguard via ‘999’ if they hear or see a person or animal in danger at the coast. So, with the Summer already upon us and the increase in people visiting the coast we are asking everyone to dial ‘999’ straight away if they are in any doubt whatsoever that someone or an animal is in difficulty in the water at the coast.
As part of the re-launch of the RNLI’s Respect the Water drowning prevention campaign our team visited Margate Main Sands on Saturday morning to chat to beach goers . It also signalled the return of the Lifeguard’s patrolling Thanet’s beaches. This was a glorious morning spent refreshing and reminding people about our key safety messages. One of the key messages that we continue to reinforce is that if you should see someone or an animal who appears to be in difficulty in the water, fight your instincts to go in after them and instead call ‘999’ and ask for the Coastguard.
While Summer air temperatures may be warm, UK and Irish waters rarely exceed 15C, making them cold enough year-round to trigger cold water shock, which causes the instinctive reaction to gasp and swim hard, which can quickly lead to drowning.
Our Community Safety Team briefing a coach party at Margate
With around half the coastal deaths each year being people who accidentally slip or fall into the water, the RNLI’s second piece of key advice: If you fall into cold water, fight your instincts to swim hard and thrash about. Instead, float for 60–90 seconds until the effects of cold water shock pass and you can catch your breath before then swimming to safety or calling for help. Find out how to Float to Live by watching Evan’s Story below.
Anyone planning a trip to the coast is advised by the RNLI :
Check the tides before embarking on the trip
Choose a lifeguarded beach and speak with the lifeguard on arrival to find out about local tide times and rips
Swim between the red and yellow flags, which is the area most closely monitored by the lifeguards
If visiting the beach with your children, take a picture of what they are wearing when you arrive, which will make it easier to locate them if they go missing
Establish a meeting point incase you get separated
If a child does goes missing, make sure the remainder of the children in your party are supervised and calmly search the area where they were last seen
Inform the Lifeguards and or Police that the child is missing
Communicate to everyone involved in the search when the child is located
I thought I would update you on how our first year of being operational has gone. Wow, what a year! The Summer was incredibly hot, as hot as the Summmer of 1976, if you can remember that far back! No stand pipes for water this time or hosepipe bans, but the UK saw some of the worst grass fires for a long time. Well, what has happened: we have attended over 60 events to-date (still a few more before the year is out including the Coastal Dog Walker Engagement Event with Thanet Police at Botany Bay on Saturday 13th October), this includes community events, talks to community and water activity groups, lifejacket clinic’s, and pop-up stands at beaches and harbours to name but a few.
We have also shared the key safety messages to as many different groups and communities as possible, including visiting the fabulous Margate Mosque and chatting to the Inman; and holding a Respect the Water stall in the Gravesend Gurdwara which was a massive success. The team have spoken to visiting coach parties and train passengers at Margate on how they can stay safe whilst visiting the seaside. This has proved really worthwhile working in conjunction with face2face teams, lifeboat crew and lifeguards to continually help spread the beach safety messages.
Our team have raised £1,000 towards the RNLI through donations received from groups and individuals after delivering safety talks in the community and at local events.
We have forged collaborative links with a whole host of local community groups, partner agencies and charities so that we can continue our community safety activities and help spread the RNLI key safety messages to as wide an audience as posssible.
Our team raised £1,000 with the help of an awesome local Kent County Councillor, Margate Mayor and other local charitable groups towards the running and equipment costs for Swim Safe. Incase you haven’t heard of Swim Safe, it is swimming lessons and water safety awareness in the sea for children aged 7-14 years run inconjuction with Swim England and the RNLI.
Pictured above is our ‘selfie frame’, this was the very 1st outing at the Turner and Pooch Dog Event on 30th September at the Turner Contemporary in Margate.
So, to conclude we have come along way in twelve months and we are looking at making 2019 an even better year. If you would like to find out more about our work then why not follow us on Facebook, Twitter,Instagram or check out our blogs which are published weekly during the Summer and monthy during the Winter. Thanks for reading and following our work, until next time take care.
So, apologies for the lack of blog entries recently, I’ve been pretty busy what with several RNLI community events, my day job and spending two days working at the Southampton Boat Show on the RNLI’s Safety stand which will be subject to another later blog.
I thought I would give an insight into the recent work of the isle’s lifeboats (Ramsgate and Margate). There has been quite few people flocking to the coast due largely to the warm weather that we have been experiencing. The fantastic lifeguards have now finished for the season and therefore we have been reminding everyone to be that extra special careful as there isn’t the extra layer of beach safety cover available.
Round-up of recent lifeboat calls:
Monday 17th September – Approx 10:00hrs Margate ILB rescued two persons in the water between Reculver and Minnis Bay. 2nd call of the day this time for Margate’s AWB to a vessel which had broken down North of Margate which was towed to Ramsgate Harbour.
Sunday 16th September – Ramsgate ILB launched to an inflatable containing children blowing off Broadstairs. The ILB successfully located the inflatable and and conveyed the children safely back to shore.
Wednesday 12th September – Ramsgate ILB launched to 2 kayakers in difficulty off the main beach. On scene the ILB found the Cross Atlantic rowing boat practicing and in no difficulty. 2nd call of the day again for the ILB launched to a report of 6 persons cut off by the tide at Stone Bay. Whilst the ILB was making its way to Stone Bay they received a message that the 6 persons had made their own way out of difficulty.
Monday 10th September 01:13hrs Ramsgate ILB launched at the request of UK Coastguard to a report of a person in the water behind Wetherspoons, in a state of distress. The ILB carried out a shoreline search until stood down by UK Coastguard, when the person was reported to be safely ashore.
Wednesday 5th September 08:33hrs Ramsgate’s AWB launched to a Personal Location Beacon (PLB) with a reported position near the Thanet Offshore Windfarm. AWB made its way to the reported position, but before arriving on scene to carry out a search, a Windfarm vessel that was in the area retrieved the PLB from the water.
Sunday 2nd September 20:37hrs Ramsgate’s ILB was launched to a person in the water behind Wetherspoons. On scene the ILB stood by whilst the person decided was spoken with by Emergency Services. The person eventually decided to make their own way back to shore, where a police officer was waiting.
Sunday 2nd September – Approx 0900hrs – Margate’s AWB was called out to assist with the tow of a yacht with engine failure 7 miles West of Margate and drifting into shallow water off Reculver Towers. The yacht was towed to the safety of Ramsgate harbour.
Saturday 1st September – 22:34hrs Ramsgate’s ILB launched to a report of a person in difficulty at Viking Bay. Whilst making their way to Viking Bay, person was located ashore and ILB stood-down.
Saturday 1st September – Margate’s ILB was launched to an 18’ angling dinghy with engine problems around three miles off Westgate-on-Sea. Vessel was towed to its launching site.
Full acknowledgements to Ramsgate and Margate RNLI stations for use of their Facebook posts. For more information check out the respective RNLI station Facebook pages.
I hope that have been able to enjoy the marvellous Summer that we have been having! The heatwave brings it’s own problems for our Lifeguards, Lifeboat Crews, HM Coastguard Rescue Teams and Community Safety Teams. They have been kept incredibly busy up and down the country being called out to a high number of people in need of assistance and also spreading the key safety messages. Some of the calls recently attended by our RNLI crews, lifeguards and Coastguard Teams have involved: tidal cut-offs, swimmers and kayackers in difficulty, weaver fish stings, yachts and fishing boats with machinery problems amongst others. One of the vitally important projects that we have been helping to support is Swim Safe at Margate Main Sands, together with Swim Teachers and lifeguards. You can read more about this fantastic programme by checking out this link.
Our Team has been incredibly busy supporting a wide range of events across the area and also carrying out anumber of ‘pop-up’ engagement events on beaches to help share safety messaging.
L-R Coastguard Rescue Technician, Face2Face team & Community Safety at Broadstairs Water Gala
One of the incredible events that we were proud to support was Margate Pride. This is the first year that we have been able to attend and we were absolutely bowled over by the number of wonderful people we spoke with and how a large number had heard about our ‘Float Not Swim’ lifesaving technique through cinema and radio advertising. We are already looking forward to next years event!
The next event that we will attending is the National Kitesurfing Championship at Ramsgate on Saturday 18th August on the lower Promenade. So, if you are thinking of coming along to watch this awesome event, then why not pop over and come and say hello.
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