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.
Although we give out a lot of advice about how to check for tide times, we still get a lot of enquiries about the fundamental issue of ‘what is a High and Low tide’. Here we try to explain this a simply as possible.
Unfortunately, due to safety restrictions placed upon us due to the COVID-19 pandemic we have had to postpone many of our drowning prevention initiatives and lifesaving activity. However, we are still busy sharing key safety messages via social media and are permitted to carry out some ‘social distanced’ activity although on a limited basis. We are continuing to keep subscribers up to date with all the latest news with an e-newsletter which is delivered straight to your inbox.
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.
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
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.
Knowing what to do in the event of seeing someone in difficulty in the water could help save someone’s life. The majority of people will not just stand and watch someone in difficulty in the water. However, if your instinct is to jump in and attempt a rescue this could cost you your life. On a lifeguarded beach the best action is to alert the lifeguards straight away. But, what happen’s if the incident is out of season when the beach doesn’t have lifeguards on duty or you are on holiday and you spot someone who is in difficulty in the water?
During August 2019 a gentlemen very tragically lost his life in Porthmadog, North Wales after entering the water to try and save the life of his children. I am sure you will agree that we all admire the selflessness that drives people to risk their own lives to help others, however, the RNLI’s message is clear “Call for help rather than endanger your own life and the lives of others”.
Mike Dunn, Deputy Director of Education and Research at RLSS UK has provided the following guide
Call the emergency services before you do anything else, so help will be on its way.
Or ask someone else to call while you try to help the casualty. If you’re alone without a phone, find someone who can call for help. Give the following information to the Coastguard Operator if at the coast. Ask for the Fire Service if inland:
Give your location.
Describe the problem.
Tell them the number of people in danger.
Give any additional information that may be useful such as any access issues or hazards.
4. Shout and Signal
From the shore you have a better view of the area than the casualty. Shout and encourage them to stay calm and float. Remind them to kick their legs gently. Once they’ve caught their breath they may be able to reach a lifering in the water, a jetty, or a shallower area of water.
Some parts of the country have rescue boards (pictured above) which contain rescue equipment either a throw bag or a reach pole secured by a digital combination lock. To access this equipment dial ‘999’ ask for the Coastguard at the coast or on the River Thames. For inland water ways (canals, rivers, lakes, loch’s, pools) ask for the Fire Service quoting the identifying number on the rescue board which will allow you access to the emergency equipment.
If there is no public rescue aid equipment, throw anything that will float.
6. Safe Rescue
Before you pull the casualty in, get down on one knee or lie down so you don’t fall in.
Remember, even if your rescue attempts fail, emergency services are on their way. Keep sight of the casualty to help the emergency services locate them quicker.
Regularly at events we are asked what is the best way to check the tide times? There are a variety of websites and smart device app’s available which are free to download and use to check the tides. Shops, cafe’s and other harbour/marina establishments regularly stock paper copies of tide tables which are available for a nominal fee or a donation to the local lifeboat station. A special mention should be made of ‘Spring Tides’ at this point in the blog. Spring Tides can result in people getting easily cut-off by the incoming tide including places where there normally isn’t an issue. For more information go to our blog on different tides.
Some lifeboat station’s also display the tide times on their external notice board’s. Many lifeboat station’s, Coastguard teams and National Coastwatch station’s publish tide times and safety advice on a regular basis on their social media channels. Both Ramsgate and Margate lifeboat station’s publish tide times.
We have included anumber of websites and ap’s below to give you an idea which ones are available.
You maybe visiting the coast to enjoy a lovely walk with your friends or family, partake in some bird watching, go climbing, kayaking, paddle boarding, sailing, swimming, surfing or just take in the sea from a cafe or coffee shop. Whatever activity you are taking part in why not remind yourself about some safety tips which could help save your life below:
Always carry a ‘calling for help device’ such as a fully charged mobile phone or VHF radio
If you are going out on your own tell someone where you are going and what time you will be back
Wear the right clothing for the activity. If you are enjoying time on the water always wear a fully serviced lifejacket.
Check the weather forecast
If you get into difficulty dial ‘999’ or ‘112’ and ask for the Coastguard
Don’t enter the water if you get cut-off by the tide, call for help
Heed any warning signs that are displayed at the coast or on beaches
Be aware of your surroundings at all times as conditions can change quickly without warning
If you end up in the water Float On Your Back until you get your breath back – Float To Live
Ian Lockyer (RNLI Community Safety Advisor) says “we want everyone to enjoy the coast and get as much out of your visit as possible. But, making a few preparations and having a plan should things go wrong will help save your life”.
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
Thanet’s RNLI Community Safety Team are making waves with this year’s Royal Lifesaving Societies Drowning Prevention Week campaign
The Thanet RNLI Community Safety Team will be taking part in a UK and Ireland-wide effort, when it takes part in Drowning Prevention Week 2020, in a bid to help families stay water-safe during and after lockdown.
Due to the ongoing impact of COVID-19, we now know that the usual level of service provided by rescue and lifeguard services are not going to be possible in 2020. Personal water safety is more important than ever before, to save lives.
The Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK), fears that families will flock to beaches and inland water locations this summer, without considering the potential dangers, putting themselves and others at risk.
In a bid to ensure families in Thanet and visitors to the area know how to keep themselves and others safe our team will be supporting RLSS UK’s annual Drowning Prevention Week campaign, this year running from 12-19 June.
RLSS UK launched the campaign seven years ago as a way of focusing the UK’s attention on the importance of water safety, during one focal week of activities. A wide range of free, downloadable resources have been produced to help supporters promote water safety through schools, leisure centres, swimming clubs, community ventures and businesses.
The Charity hopes that through the campaign, the UK and Ireland will see a reduction in the statistics that see approximately 700 people losing their lives to drowning every year – that’s one every 12 hours. Many more suffer injury, sometimes lifechanging, following a water related incident.
Our team is proud to play its part in trying to reduce this figure, and ensuring there isn’t a rise in fatalities because of the current situation. Our team will be sharing images and content via their social media platforms throughout the campaign week.
Andy Mills (Thanet RNLI Community Safety) said: “It is so important to remind people to stay safe and take personal responsibility near water, especially during these unprecedent times. We are only too happy to be involved with the RLSS’ Drowning Prevention Week.
“Most people are surprised to learn that you are more likely to die from drowning in the UK, than you are from being hit by a car or in a domestic fire. We urge as many people as possible to take advantage of our on-line material and learn what could be potentially lifesaving skills”.
Many apologies for the delay in writing another blog post, but some of our team are key workers and have been pretty busy in their day job working to help protect the public from COVID-19.
We hope that everyone is keeping safe and well; and looking after your loved ones where possible! These continue to be challenging times, with everyone having to adapt to new ways of living and going about their daily business. It won’t have escaped your notice, but there have been some ingenius ways of coping with life whilst staying at home.
A plethora of community based support groups have sprung up, not to mention the growing popularity of virtual entertainment social media channels offering everything from cooking classes, children’s activities, schooling, fitness groups, dancing, pub quiz’s, drama and music sessions to name a few. The RNLI are running their own ‘Water Safety Wednesday for children each week via their Facebook page.
As you will be aware the RNLI announced that all their stations, shops and engagement activity will be suspended until further notice follwing advice from HM Government. This includes our drowning prevention work and water safety activity. Rest assured RNLI Crews, maintenance engineers, the supply team and HM Coastguard teams are continuing to provide an operational emergency service 24/7.
Duty Crew System – Lifeboat Station’s
I read this morning on one station’s social media page that they had introduced a ‘duty crew’ system: reducing the number of crew that respond to the pager launch request from the Coastguard so the risk of cross contaimination is reduced.
Simply, crews will be split into teams or ‘watches’ with the appropriate number of women/men with key skills: eg launch authority, coxswain, helmsmen, mechanic, navigator, tractor driver, or head launcher allocated to each team to provide the operational readiness. Other safety measures will have been introduced at other stations to help mitigate risks where possible, but ensuring the lifeboat(s) and crews are able to maintain their search and rescue capability.
Minimising the risk to yourself and family
In line with the Government’s guidance on minimising the risk to yourself, family and others the Coastguard have said that visits to the beach should only be undertaken by those who live close to them. If you do live close to coast please observe the government’s instructions which are available via the Public Health England site and maintain the 2 metre social distance if you meet anyone on your walk, run or cycle.
Pete Mizen, assistant director for HM Coastguard, said: “The rules are very simple. The risk of spreading coronavirus is huge and while you might be OK, the person you give it to may not.
“And if you get into trouble and have to call ‘999’ and ask for the Coastguard, you’re then putting frontline emergency responders at risk of Covid-19 too. At this time of the year the beaches aren’t lifeguarded which is a double risk to you and our emergency responders. Help us to help you.”
RNLI – Pausing Beach Lifeguard Patrols
You may also have read that the RNLI are “immediately pausing” lifeguard patrols at beaches, and other public organisations such as councils and tourist groups have also taken steps to try to deter people from visiting.
I am sure that you will all join our team in thanking all the key workers who are keeping the country going, protecting us, maintaining our emergency services and making sure we have got the essential supplies to keep everyone healthy and well. So, whichever organisation, health service, company, charity, volunteer group or agency you work or volunteer for thank you very much for everything you are doing!
Rest assured our team are still working to share water safety and drowning prevention information via our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram platforms. If you do hear or see an animal or person who is in difficulty in the water at the coast dial ‘999’ straight away and ask for the Coastguard.
Please stay safe and thank you very much for reading.
Other useful links (to help you keep safe if you live close to the coast)
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