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.
The Isle of Thanet coast has some of the most beautiful beaches and coastline in the UK which draws visitors at all times of the year (nineteen miles of coastline in fact). Exploring the coastline on foot is an excellent way of enjoying valuable time with family and friends, whilst grabbing fresh air, exercise and at the same time relaxing. Holiday times are great occasions to get out and enjoy the coast.
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.
Storm Darcy has been named by the Dutch Met Office KNMI and is set to bring strong winds and heavy snow to south east England late on Saturday and on Sunday, with this weather easing through Monday. The Met Office have issued their own weather warnings for the UK from Friday 5th February.
We have seen Kayaking grow in popularity, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, either out at the coast or on our fabulous inland water ways. There is nothing like getting out on the water in a kayak and it is absolutely great fun.
Getting out in the fresh air either enjoying a leisurely stroll, a longer hike or maybe a run is a fantastic way to get some exercise particularly during the lockdown period, to improve your mindfulness and spend time with friends or family. This blog is designed to raise awareness that 93 people who accidentally drowned during 2018 weren’t even taking part in water-based activity and were simply running or walking near water (this is the largest grouping of people who lost their lives).
Brew Monday kicks off on Monday 18th January, the third Monday of the month which is usually known as ‘Blue Monday’. We will be helping to flip ‘Blue Monday on it’s head and turning it into something positive by taking part in a Team Cuppa/Coffee morning. We are encouraging everyone to reach out and catch up over a virtual cuppa because now more than ever, it’s so important to stay connected.
January is traditionally the time to make those New Year resolutions, whether it is ‘Dry January’ (that is abstaining from alcohol consumption), a new diet, fitness regime, learn a new language, change career/job, or learning something new to help improve yourself. Whatever you decide to tackle then we wish you the best of luck. It’s not easy taking on a new challenge, but whatever you try just keep going. There will be days that you will not feel like it, but stick with it and you will be surprised that little steps can make a big difference. Everyone has their own challenges and what one person takes for granted can be another person’s goal or massive achievement. During the COVID-19 pandemic many people have seized the opportunity to learn something new, take up a new hobby or taken an on-line course which we applaud!
For those of you who enjoy a water sport then January maybe the ideal opportunity to help improve their safety out on the water. Here are some ideas:
Lifejackets or personal floatation devices (PFD’s) are essential pieces of lifesaving kit which should be regularly serviced and worn at all times. Checking your lifejacket and getting it serviced is always a good start to the new year and maybe replacing one that you may have had for a long time taking advantage of the January sales at the Chandlers is always a good move. Whether you are a sailor, off-shore angler, kayaker, canoeist or paddle boarder a lifejacket or personal floatation device is a must for all sea and weather conditions.
Open Water Swimming
Open water or cold water swimming has really taken off in the past couple of years, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. A brightly coloured swim hat and tow float are good purchases if you are intending on taking up this fabulous pastime in the New Year. Joining a club or signing up for some swimming lesson (when COVID-19 regulations permit) is also an excellent way of enjoying your new hobby. Swimming with a buddy, friend or club members is great fun, but also fabulous for safety as everyone will be looking out for each other.
The preferred means of communication when out on the water is a VHF radio. They are a relatively inexpensive piece of kit to purchase, relatively simple to use under pressure in a life threatening situation, water proof, can deliver a recognised method of calling for assistance via channel 16, if you purchase one with Digital Selective Calling (DSC) a predefined automatic signal of your position will be transmitted in an emergency situation if you depress the DSC button; and has a better range of reception (often close to the shoreline a mobile phone can’t get a signal).
Once purchased you will need to attend and pass a radio course to teach you how to use it and it’s functions. The RYA run a wealth of radio courses across the UK and more and more are being offered with an on-line element.
These have really come down in price recently and are a highly recommended piece of safety kit which need to be registered with the HM Coastguard and your details update if you change address. Canoeists, kayakers, divers, paddle boarders. PLB’s have also drawn popularity in mountain biking, hiking and climbing circles enabling these sporting enthusiasts in remote locations to have a means of calling for help which can pinpoint their position and where there is no mobile phone signal.
Training or lessons
If you are just starting out in your new water sport or igniting an old passion then finding an approved instructor or subscribing to some lessons at a local club will be a good move to help you learn the basic’s, safety drills or refresh on some previously learnt techniques. Each sport will have their own approved instructors or schools which have been independently assessed for their specialist knowledge of the sport, safety aspects, equipment and insurance. A quick search of the relevant sport’s governing body will provide a list of approved instructing schools and qualified coaches. A phone call, email or private message on social media will help you answer any questions you may have.
Mobile Phone Water Proof Pouch
Carrying a means of ‘calling for help’ is essential whatever water sport you enjoy whether it’s at the coast or on inland water. The handheld VHF radio is our recommended ‘calling for help’ device, however, a fully charged mobile in a water proof pouch is also a viable option for calling for help. Being able to call for help if you get into difficulty or you see someone else in trouble is essential. Mobile phone pouch’s are relatively inexpensive to purchase via the internet or water sport retail outlets.
Internet for useful resources
The internet contains a whole host of valuable resources which can help increase your knowledge and safety whilst having at the same time enabling you to have a great time whilst on the water. Always ensure that your sources are the approved governing bodyclub or association for the relevant sport eg RYA, British Canoeing, British Kitesports Association etc.
Every New Years Eve, sadly Coastguard Rescue Teams and RNLI lifeboat crews are called out unnecessarily after people set off flares rather than fireworks. Flares are to request immediate assistance when someone is in grave and imminent danger at sea.
If the UK Coastguard receives an alert at or near the coast where a flare has been launched, it will always respond and won’t know the difference if they are being used as fireworks. This would put search and rescue teams at heightened unnecessary risk particularly during COVID-19 pandemic and potentially diverting from a legitimate emergency.
What do you do if you spot a flare that has been fired?
What is the difference between flares and fireworks?
Flares are typically red or orange and don’t last long – they are an internationally recognised distress signal.
Fireworks are typically colourful and often accompanied by a sound, leaving a smoke trail.
How do I dispose of time expired flares or pyrotechnic’s?
Firing off time expired flares or pyrotechnic’s is illegal and you could be prosecuted. It is illegal to fire them on land or on a harbour, fire them off at sea for training, testing or as fireworks; dump flares at sea or on land; and damaged and or out of date flares should not be used. Flares should be disposed of safely and as soon as possible.
Only contact the HM Coastguard when all other means of disposal have been exhausted:
Speak with the place you purchased them from. They may offer a ‘take back’ scheme (a small charge may apply)
Life raft service stations (some offer a service)
The local authority. They maybe accepted at local recycling centres, but you will need to contact them prior to attending or sending them
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.
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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