Thanet RNLI Community Safety

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Out for a coastal or beach walk during half-term? Learn how to Be Coast Safe

OUT FOR A COASTAL OR BEACH WALK DURING HALF-TERM? – LEARN HOW TO BE COAST SAFE!

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.

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If you are living close to the coast and want to explore during half-term or maybe you are working from home then a stroll along the coast maybe the best antidote for getting some headspace so that you can return to your laptop fully energised and ready for the next meeting on Zoom or Microsoft Teams.

Lifeboat crews and HM Coastguard teams are regularly called out to walkers who have got into difficulty either in the water, mud or on the cliff’s.

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Kingsgate Bay, Broadstairs – Tidal Cut-Off High Risk area

Is coastal walking a safe activity?

Coastal walking is one of the safest activities going, but it does account for one of the highest proportion of death’s on the coast. One of the reasons for this is that people are not expecting to enter the water.  Andy Mills, one of our Community Safety Team says “we want everyone to have a fabulous time whilst enjoying their lovely coastal walk. But, take a few precautions which will help you significantly if you run into difficulty on your walk”.

Why not have a look at our team’s top safety tips below to help you stay safe:

1.  Should I carry a ‘calling for help’ device – Yes, such as a fully charged mobile phone or VHF radio preferably carried in a waterproof bag or case.

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2.  Check the tides times and weather before you head out. Find out more here

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3.  Should I wear extra clothing for a coastal walk?

Wear the right clothing for the activity as weather and conditions can change quickly. Packing a rain coat and a fleece in a backpack will help you prepare for inclimate conditions.

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Lifeboat crew member wearing the new Helly Hansen personal protective equipment

4.  Should I let someone know where we are going and what will be the latest time you will be back. Yes, always let someone know the route you will be taking and the time you will return.

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5.  Cliff edges can be slippery at all times of the year particularly around the sea and close to water. It doesn’t have to be a high cliff edge to cause you a problem.  Walking around coastal areas during the hours of darkness has an additional level of risk attached to it. Be prepared and carry a torch, wear stout walking shoes, pre-plan your route and have a plan should something go wrong.

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6.   If you hear or see an animal or person in difficulty in the water or at the coast dial ‘999’ or ‘112’ straight away and ask for the coastguard.  More information on knowing who to call in a coastal emergency.

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7.  If you do end up in the water follow the RNLI’s ‘Float For Your Life’ drill – float on your back until you can get your breath back and either call for help or self-rescue. More information on Float to Live

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8. Have you heard of the What3Words App?  Emergency services have managed to locate quickly people in need of urgent help by using this free app. More information check out our blog

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Photo credit: What3Words

Useful Statistics

  • 201 fatalities amongst walkers and runners 2011-2015
  • 499 rescues people who had been tide in 2016
  • 478 call-outs to walkers and runners in 2016 (UK and ROI)

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More Useful Links

How to Be Coast Safe

RNLI Water Safety campaign – Respect the Water

Don’t Paddle After Your Dog

HM Coastguard – Waves and Wind – Top Safety Tips

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Two of Thanet’s Tidal Cut-Off Areas : Botany Bay and Kingsgate Bay

Acknowledgements

What3Words

RNLI

HM Coastguard

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High and Low Tide Explained!

High and Low Tide Explained –  by Ian Lockyer

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. 

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Essentially, tides are the rise and fall of the levels of the ocean. Tides change as the Moon rotates around the Earth and as the position of the Sun changes. Throughout the day, the sea level is continuously rising or falling. This cycle can happen once or twice a day, depending on the location of the area to the Moon. 

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When the sea level is rising or falling, water is flowing to or from the ocean creating the following tides: 

  • High tide is the point in the tidal cycle where the sea level is at its highest.
  • Low tide is the point in the tidal cycle where the sea level is at its lowest.

stormyweather respectthewater RNLIcommunitysafety thanet broadstairs beweatheraware metoffice bewaterawareThere are other tides called Spring and Neap tides. A Spring Tide occurs when the Sun and the Moon are aligned to combine for the largest tidal range of the highest high tide and the lowest Low Tide. A Neap tide is when the tidal range is at its smallest. This occurs during the first and third quarters of the Moon.

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It is important to know the difference of these tides when planning your activities around the coast.  You could become stranded if you misjudged the tides when walking or running around the coast.

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An excellent follow-up article should you wish to plan your activities around the coast is ‘Do you know how to check the tide time?

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If you decide to visit the coast please stay up-to-date with the government’s COVID-19 pandemic legislation. Thank you for reading and stay safe.

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Sign-Up To Our Lifesaving Newsletter?

Sign up to the Thanet RNLI Community Safety E-Newsletter

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.

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We have already published several newsletters during 2020, and you can see the latest here:

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To subscribe to this newsletter all you have to do is click on the following link with some very basic details and you will be added automatically.

https://wordpress.us17.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=eeeedf8adaf02d6615cdb9d5a&id=44ea630367

The contact details that you provide will only be used to provide you with the email newsletter.  We will not use your data for any other purpose or pass on to any other company or party.

 

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Lifting the lid on the National Coastwatch Institution

NATIONAL COASTWATCH INSTITUTION – Herne Bay

Pre-COVID-19 pandemic two of our team were fortunate to visit the National Coastwatch Institution (NCI) look-out at Herne Bay and enjoyed a tour by two of the Watch Keepers Richard and Julia.

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Thanet CS team members John and Andy pictured with Richard Farr and Julia Morrissey

Currently there are 56 NCI operational stations and staffed by over 2500 volunteers keeping watch around the British Isles during day-light hours throughout the year. NCI watchkeepers provide the eyes and ears along the coast, monitoring radio channels and providing a listening watch in poor visibility. The NCI provides that extra layer of maritime surveillance and monitoring of the coastline helping to keep everyone safe who enjoys using the coast.

The NCI patch covers: from Rossall Point in the North West, through to Wales, to the South and East of England to Hornsea in the East Riding of Yorkshire.

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Should a Watch Keeper observe a person or craft in difficulty in the water or at the coast they will notify the HM Coastguard straight away and then direct the search and rescue (SAR) assets to the casualty whether it is the Coastguard helicopter, Coastguard Rescue Team, Lifeboat or other blue light emergency service.

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Coastguard Helicoper – photo credit Dawn Kandekore

After receiving a comprehensive training package Watch Keepers (WK) are able to deal with emergencies using a variety of skills and experience.  Stations are equipped with telescopes, radar, telephone and weather instrumentation as well as up to date charts to aid Watch Keepers undertake their role effectively. Every NCI station has Declared Facility Status and has to comply with standards set by the Maritime Coastguard Agency.

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If you are out on the water you can call the National Coastwatch via channel 65 and request radio and AIS checks, local tidal conditions, local weather and other coastal information.

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We would like to thank the NCI for their tireless work and for volunteering thousands of hours every year to help keep our coasts safe.

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Other useful links

Know who to call in a coastal emergency?

Interested in volunteering to become a Watch Keeper?

NCI Analysis of incidents

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Be Weather Aware During Stormy Weather

Be Weather Aware During Stormy Weather

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.

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Ramsgate All Weather Lifeboat – Photo credit : Sarah Hewes

There have been many video’s and images shared online showing people risking their lives ‘dodging waves’ or taking ‘storm selfies’ during extreme weather conditions.  This blog is designed to give you a better awareness of the risks associated with stormy weather and what you can do to stay safe.  The video clip below illustrates this point very well. Fortunately, in this case no one was injured, but it could have been a totally different story.

Choppy water and strong currents (such as severe weather or spring tides), can sap the energy even of the most experienced sea goers.    If sea conditions are rough then don’t enter the water.  If you are in the water and the conditions change don’t take a chance but get out and wait until conditions become calmer.

Here are our 5 tips to help keep you safe during stormy weather:

1. Rip Currents

Rips are strong currents running out to sea between waves, which can quickly drag people and debris away out to deeper water.  They are especially powerful in larger surf, but never underestimate the power of any water. More information on rip currents can be found here.

2. Check weather forecasts

Keep a keen eye on the weather forecasts and tides.  There are numerous smart device apps which will provide information for free. The Met Office is a good source of weather forecast information and you can also sign-up for their email alerts and follow the Met Office on their social media channels.

Always seek local advice in advance before heading outdoors during severe weather.  Harbour offices and lifeguards (during the season) will be a good way of ascertaining local information such as tide tables.  Local RNLI and HM Coastguard Teams often run their own local social media channels which can be an excellent way of finding out local severe weather warnings and knowledge.  If you are taking part in an activity such as kifesurfing, kayaking or sailing then a local club will be able to pass on information about local conditions and hazards.

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3. Check your local environment

Storms can alter the landscape of some beaches, changing or damaging access points, or even creating new areas for rip currents.

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4. Beware of large waves

Even from the shore, large breaking waves can sweep you off your feet and drag you out into the sea. It is the wave in the middle of a set which is often bigger and can reach further up the beach or along a promenade.  The RNLI call this the ‘7th Wave’.  Driving through area’s which have been flooded or close to harbours during stormy weather can also be dangerous.

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5. Realising the risks

Realising the risks and making small changes can help you and your friends or family safe whilst still enjoying the coast:

  • Always carrying a means of calling for help on your activity such as a mobile phone or VHF radio in a waterproof case is a great idea
  • Tell someone where you are going and when is the latest time that you will be returning
  • Areas where you normally walk maybe slippery
  • Be careful around exposed headlands as gusts of wind and large waves can put you in potentially dangerous situations
  • If you see or hear a person or animal in the water dial ‘999’ or ‘112’ straight away and ask for the Coastguard

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Often the best way of enjoying stormy weather is to observe it from a coffee or tea shop with a nice cuppa in your hand and something nice to eat! RNLICommunitysafety RNLIseasafety RNLIwatersafety Respectthewater bewateraware stormyweather beweatheraware severeweather stormwarning

Check your tide times – useful links

National Tidal and Sea Level Facility

Admiralty East Tides

Useful weather internet sites

Windfinder

Met Office

XC Weather

Acknowledgements

RNLI and HM Coastguard

Picture credit : Sarah Hewes

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Flares Are Not Fireworks – New Years Eve Is Not The Time For Firing Off Maritime Flares

Flares Are Not Fireworks – New Years Eve Is Not The Time For Firing Off Flares At The Coast

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.

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Examples of maritime flares
What do you do if you spot a flare that has been fired?
If you do see a flare, or think you have, you should call ‘999’ and ask for the COASTGUARD immediately giving as an accurate location as possible using a landmark, grid reference or using what2words.
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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.

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Discarded time expired pyrotechnics. Photo credit: Adrossan CG Rescue Team

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
  • If you are still unable to dispose of flares then you can contact your nearest HM Coastguard licensed site.  For further details go to our blog which gives further details

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Thank you for reading and from all of our team we would like to wish to a safe and enjoyable New Year.

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Want to find out more information?

HM Coastguard

British Sub-Aqua Club

Sign-up to our newsletter

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Acknowledgements

Royal National Lifeboat Institution

HM Coastguard

HM Coastguard Rescue Team

Adrossan HM Coastguard Rescue Team

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Thank You For All Your Support In Helping To Share Our Drowning Prevention And Water Safety Messaging

Thank You For All Your Support In Helping To Share Our Drowning Prevention And Water Safety Messaging!

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.

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Stay tuned to learn more about our Community Safety work, key safety messages and how you can help Respect the Water!

Thank you and Stay Safe!

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A member of our community safety team (pictured far left) with members of the public and HM Coastguard Margate during the Ramsgate Don’t Drink and Drown campaign 2019

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Do You Know What To Do If You Saw Someone Drowning?

Do you know what to do if you saw someone drowning?

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

6 Steps To Saving A Life Without Risking Your Own

1. Keep Alert

Don’t expect a casualty to be shouting for help. They may be struggling to breathe, and drowning looks very different to how it is portrayed in the movies.

If you’re not sure, shout: ‘Do you need help?’ If they say yes or don’t answer at all, it’s time to act.

2. Resist the temptation

Don’t be tempted to go in. The water might be cold, which will limit your ability to swim. And whatever has caused the casualty to need help is likely to happen to you too. Cold water shock is a killer. Find out more about by watching this video featuring RNLI Ambassador Ant Middleton

3. Dial ‘999’ or ‘112’ straight away

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.

5. Find a Rescue Aid

If there is a life ring, throw bag (filled with rope), or other public rescue aid equipment nearby, quickly read any instructions then throw it to the casualty. See our advice on how to use a throw bag or lifering.

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.

Picture Credits:  RNLI/Andy Perryman

More useful links:

It’s hot out there – what to do if you get into difficulty

Can I suffer from Cold Water Shock

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Do You Know How To Check the Tide Times?

Do You Know How To Check the Tide Times?

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.

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A spring tide—popularly known as a “King Tide”—refers to the ‘springing forth’ of the tide during new and full moon. A neap tide—seven days after a spring tide—refers to a period of moderate tides when the sun and moon are at right angles to each other.

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.

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BBC Weather Tide Tables

Tide Times

Met Office Beach forecast and tide times

Tide Forecast.com

Tide Times App – iOS device

Tide Times App – Android

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:

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  • Always carry a ‘calling for help device’ such as a fully charged mobile phone or VHF radio

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  • If you are going out on your own tell someone where you are going and what time you will be back

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  • Wear the right clothing for the activity. If you are enjoying time on the water always wear a fully serviced lifejacket.

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  • Check the weather forecast

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  • If you get into difficulty dial ‘999’ or ‘112’ and ask for the Coastguard

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  • Don’t enter the water if you get cut-off by the tide, call for help

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  • Heed any warning signs that are displayed at the coast or on beaches

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  • Be aware of your surroundings at all times as conditions can change quickly without warning

Respectthewater communitysafety tidetimes

  • 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”.

    Other useful links

    Do you know who to call in a coastal emergency?

    Float to live – Evan’s Story

    How do I prevent being cut-off by the tide?

    Coastaldogsafety RNLI watersafety drowningprevention RLSS ROSPA dogs coastguard Thanet Broadstairs Raamsgate Margate
    One of our Coastal Dog Safety sessions at Dumpton Gap (prior to Lockdown)

    Acknowledgements

    RNLI

    HM Coastguard

    National Coastwatch Institution

    National Ocean Service

    drones HMcoastguard unammedaircraft UAV Margatecoastguard Thanetlifeguards margatelifeboat Ramsgatelifeboat Respectthewater Bebeachsafe Bewateraware Kentpolice Northwales Droneoverwatch RNLI Lifeboats Thanet RNLIwatersafety RNLICommunitysafety beaches harbours GPS ICOM searchandrescue helicopter
    Technology Is Revolutionising Search and Rescue Operations In The UK – Unmanned Aircraft (UAV)

    Technology Is Revolutionising Search and Research Operations In The UK – Unmanned Aircaft

    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.

    drone UAV Unmannedaircraft HMcoastguard margatecoastguard ramsgatelifeboat ILB AWB RNLIwatersafety RNLIcommunitysafety bebeachsafe respectthewater Bewateraware broadstairs margate ramsgate margatelifeboat
    Maritime and Coastguard Agency Unmanned Aircraft – Photo credit: HM Coastguard

    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.

    https://www.facebook.com/MCA/videos/781603065986237/

    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.”

    coastguard lifeboat respectthewater RNLI NCI Nationalcoastwatch drowningprevention thanetRNLIcommunitysafetyteam seasafety
    Coastguard Helicoper – photo credit Dawn Kandekore

    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.

    COVID19 CoronaVirus coastguard knowwhotocall coastal emergency

    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”.

    UAV drones unmannedaircraft lifeboats SAR RNLICommunitysafety RNLIwatersafety margatelifeboat ramsgatelifeboat HMcoastguard thanetlifeguards margatecoastguard
    Hermes UAV Photo credit : Maritime Coastguard Agency

    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.

    UAV unmannedaircraft Coastguard margatecoastguard thanetlifeguards RNLIcommunitysafety rnliwatersafety margatelifeboat ramsgatelifeboat respectthewater bebeachsafe
    Photo credit: RNLI and HM Coastguard

    HM Coastguard Teams from Walton, Clacton, Mersea Island, South Woodham Ferrers, Southend and Canvey Island took part, supported by a range of inshore and all-weather lifeboats and hovercraft strategically placed at six RNLI stations along the county coastline.

    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.”

    drones UAV unmannedaircraft RNLI RNLIwatersafety RNLICommunitysafety HMcoastguard margatecoastguard Margatelifeboat respectthewater bebeachsafe Bewateraware
    Photo credit: HM Coastguard

    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.

    HMCoastguard RNLIWatersafety RNLICommunitysafety Seasafety thanet kent margate ramsgate broadstairs lifeguards floodrescue calling for help coastalsafety beachsafety swimsafety lifejackets checks
    Photo credit: Greenock Coastguard Team

    Six different industry partners and organisations supported the above trial including: University of Bath, Lockheed Martin UK and Scisys.

    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.

    coastguard lifeboats RNLI RNLICommunitysafety RNLISeaSafety RNLIWatersafety thanet margate broadstairs communitysafetyadviser coastguardoperationscentres
    Photo credit: Greenock Coastguard Rescue Team

    Conclusion

    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.

    Please note

    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

    Useful links 

    Sign up to the RNLI Thanet Community Safety Team newsletter

    What’s the difference between the Coastguard and RNLI? 

    RNLI Ramsgatelifeboat respectthewater RNLICommunitySafetyTeam
    Ramsgate All Weather Lifeboat Photo credit: Ramsgate RNLI

    Acknowledgements

    Maritime Coastguard Agency

    Bristow

    Elbit

    Royal National Lifeboat Institution