The RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) relies on help and commitment from members of the public in numerous ways: donating money, giving up their free time to volunteer in souvenir shops, fundraising projects, crewing lifeboats, lifeboat launch teams, station visit officers, water safety and educational roles; or lifeboat Launch Authorities.
Regularly at community events our team are asked why should you carry a VHF radio if you are a kayaker, dingy sailor, paddle boarder, personal water craft user, or off-shore fishermen when they could use their mobile phone instead if they get into difficulty? Even if you are not going far offshore you might not be able to get a mobile phone signal. Wet mobile phones don’t work very well and who knows what sea or weather conditions you may experience.
RNLI Volunteers and HM Coastguard Rescue Teams remain on-call, ready to help others during lockdown. However, we urge everyone to think carefully about using the sea for exercise or recreation incase you get into difficulty.
On Saturday (5th December 2020) our team are helping to celebrate International Volunteers day. International Volunteers Day is an international observance that was mandated by the United Nations General Assembly in 1985. The day is an opportunity for us all to promote volunteerism, encourage everyone to support volunteer efforts and recognise volunteer contributions. After all, this year has been very challenging for all of us in a multitude of ways. Thousands of volunteers across the UK have been at the forefront of medical, community and societal responses to the pandemic. They should be applauded at every opportunity, giving up their valuable time to help others.
So, why do people volunteer? There are many reasons, but here are a few:
Give something back to the community
Make a difference to the people around us
Learn new skills
Meet new people and build friendships
Build on existing knowledge and experience
Become part of a team and feel valued
Gain confidence and increase self-esteem
Spend time away from a busy lifestyle or the working environment
Opportunity to socialise
Find new employment by enhancing employment prospects eg improving CV’s
The RNLI relies on 35,000 dedicated volunteers (making up 95% of their total strength) and the HM Coastguard indicate that they have 3,500 Coastguard Rescue Officers who are highly trained in missing person searching, first aid, water, mud and cliff rescue.
RNLI and HM Coastguard Teams have been busier than ever during 2020
RNLI and HM Coastguard Rescue Teams have been on-call throughout the pandemic providing round-the-clock search and rescue cover with an increasing number of call-outs to persons needing help and assistance due largely to an increase in people enjoying ‘staycations’ and days out at the coast. The RNLI have described the 2020 season as one like no other.
So, let’s get behind all those volunteers out there who freely volunteer their time and say a big thank you for everything they do and continue to do. Whenever you next meet a volunteer just say ‘thank you’. If you are a volunteer yourself, thank your colleagues and the team it will make all the difference!
Stay safe out there and thank you for reading.
How to stay safe during the pandemic
If you are out and about in your communities please help to stay safe by heeding the government advice for the particular tier or country which you are residing, visiting or working in.
The Thanet RNLI community team has been unable to get out as much as we would have dearly wanted to this year because of COVID restriction. We know that the Thanet community appreciate our proactive initiatives in passing on safety advice to boat owners, coastal walkers, fishermen and others that use the coast around the Isle.
One of the things we are going to do this year, with full social distancing, is support the RNLI with its Christmas fundraising initiative…..the RNLI Reindeer Run.
Two of the team, Andy Mills and Ian Lockyer, will be running a coastal route from Ramsgate RNLI station to Margate RNLI station which is approximately 10 miles. Wearing the obligatory antlers, they will be leaving the Ramsgate station at 11.00am on Sunday, 13th December.
Andy Mills, RNLI Community Safety Officer said, ‘We think it is an excellent way to raise awareness of the good work that the volunteers around our stations do and also raise funds for the RNLI. Volunteer crews at the charity’s 238 lifeboat stations will hope to sit down to enjoy Christmas dinner this year, some always have their festive celebrations cut short as their pagers sound and they leave friends and family and head out to sea.’
Ian Lockyer, RNLI Community Safety Adviser said, ‘Most of my friends would say this is a doddle for me but I would have run a marathon 24 hours before…so it will hurt.’
RNLI Lifeboats have faced a summer like now other with statistics revealing a huge increase in the number of people (water users***) requiring assistance by local lifeboat crews compared to the year 2019.
Lifeboat stations see increase in call-outs
Based on incident reports (provisional)** submitted by RNLI lifeboat stations around the UK and Ireland, there was a 64% increase in the number of recreational water users assisted by the RNLI. After every emergency call-out an incident return has to be submitted by the station detailing what the incident was about, the location, action taken etc).
Lifeguards reported increase in beach visitor numbers
Lifeguards also reported seeing a significant increase in the number of visitors to beaches around the coast. RNLI lifeguards working on two beaches in Thanet carried out an unprecedented number of rescues -including 24 people rescued in a single day at Ramsgate Main Beach and carrying out a successful CPR on a six year old girl who had collapsed and stopped breathing at Botany Bay.
The Lifeguards also rescued a man in his 50’s at Botany Bay who was out of his depth and being hit against the chalk sea stack to the west of the beach.
On Friday, 31st RNLI lifeguards Neil Morgan (member of our Community Safety Team & Ramsgate Lifeboat crew) and Chris Wilson, patrolling on Ramsgate Main Beach, had to rescue 24 people who were in danger of being swept out to sea by rip currents.
Those rescued included children, adults and the elderly. In one incident, lifeguard Neil Morgan had to dive into the water with his rescue tube after spotting two children who had been caught in a rip current and were being swept towards the harbour entrance. Neil and Chris also escorted a further six children to safety.
In another incident lifeguards took to a rescue ATV (quad bike) to get close to a group of swimmers who were in danger and close to the harbour entrance and persuaded them to come to shore for their safety.
HM Coastguard reported the day as having the highest number of call-outs in four years.
The statistics include people who got into trouble whilst :
Biggest Increase this Summer in incidents involving inflatables
In the South East of England which includes covering 31 lifeboat stations stretching from the Thames to Swanage, saw the biggest increase the summer 2020 (June to August) in incidents involving inflatables.
During 2019 lifeboat stations in the South East launched 20 times to people in difficulty with inflatables and 26 people were helped. In 2020 there were 37 launches and 89 people aided – a 242.3% increase.
The second biggest increase was lifeboat launches to waterside activities which includes:
In 2019 RNLI lifeboats in the South East launched 10 times to these types of incidents and helped nine people, in 2020 there were 14 launches and 28 people helped – an increase of 211.1%.
The growing popularity of paddle boarding during 2020 is also reflected in the figures. In 2019 the South East’s lifeboats launched eight times and four paddle boarders were assisted. In 2020 the number of launches increased to 12 with 12 people also assisted by crews.
Inflatables are not designed for the coast!
The South East RNLI Water Safety Lead Guy Addington, said “the figures highlighted the dangers inflatables can pose at the coast and urged people to leave them at home in the future:
“Inflatables can be great fun, but they are not designed for the beach as it’s easy to get swept out to sea,’ As these figures demonstrate, inflatables are one of the most common reasons our lifeboat crews are called to action during the summer months”.
‘They are particularly dangerous when there are strong offshore winds and there were a number of incidents around the South East this summer where people, in some cases children, suddenly found themselves being swept hundreds of metres offshore. Were it not for our lifeboat crews responding so quickly some of these incidents could easily have resulted in a tragedy. The best place to enjoy inflatables is in an enclosed area such as a swimming pool”.
As the light faded, time was of the essence and with a police helicopter hovering overhead as a marker, the lifeboat was on the scene in 12 minutes and rescued the pair who by that time had become separated from their inflatable. They were cold and distressed and had been in the water for 40 minutes.
On the same day the crew also rescued a seven-year-old girl spotted drifting out to sea on an inflatable lollipop and an 11-year-old on an inflatable dinghy.
Margate & Ramsgate Lifeboats are often called out incidents involving inflatables
Both Margate and Ramsgate lifeboats are also often called to incidents involving inflatables during the summer months, several of which turn out to be beach toys drifting out to sea. Both stations were kept busy during lockdown 1.0 with some days seeing their respective crew pagers going off more than once in a 24 hour period.
‘This is the other big concern with inflatable beach toys,’ explained Guy. ‘Often lifeboat crews are launched to inflatables drifting out to sea because of fears there could be people in the water. Extensive searches are often carried out only to discover the toys have been blown off the beach. This could mean the lifeboat crew are unable to respond to other, perhaps more serious, incidents”.
“With Christmas just a month away we’d urge anyone considering buying their loved one an inflatable to put safety first and make it clear it’s not to be used on the coast,” he added.
The RNLI’s Head of Water Safety, Gareth Morrison, said: ‘Our volunteer crews have been on call throughout the pandemic. This year, they faced a summer like no other.
‘When lockdown restrictions eased, we saw people flock to the beaches to enjoy our coastlines instead of holidaying abroad. But that resulted in a huge number of people getting into difficulty around our coasts, with our lifesavers facing an incredibly busy summer.
‘If you find yourself in trouble at the coast this winter, call ‘999’ and ask for the Coastguard.’
Personal protective Equipment – COVID-19
The RNLI has spent £1.2M on personal protective equipment this year to help keep its volunteers and lifeguards and the public safe during COVID-19, including almost 700,000 face masks, 2.4 million gloves and 4,700 litres of hand sanitiser. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 risk assessments lifeboat fundraising events and shops have had to be cancelled and or shut (including Ramsgate and Margate’s fantastic fundraising teams).
RNLI Lifeboat Crews Still On-Call
RNLI Lifeboat crew have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to keep people safe as lockdown restrictions eased and people flocked to the coast. The RNLI relies on the support of the public to continue saving lives – and that support is needed now more than ever. The charity has launched its Christmas Appeal. Why not find out more how you can help the RNLI this Christmas. Thanks for reading and stay safe.
**The complete statistics for lifeguards and lifeboats will be available in early 2021.
*** Waterside activities include paddling up to the knees, wading up to the chest, beach combing, cockle, mussel picking (not commercial) cycling, driving (or parked in vehicle) horse-riding, metal detecting, playing games (non-competitive), relaxing and rock pooling.
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