Thanet RNLI Community Safety

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Why Should You Carry A VHF Radio If You Are A Kayaker, Sailor, Personal Water Craft user or Fishermen

Why Should You Carry A VHF Radio – If You Are A Kayaker, Sailor, Paddle Boarder, Personal Water Craft user or Off-Shore Fishermen

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. 

More specialist equipment may be needed to ensure that if you find yourself in difficulty you can easily alert the HM Coastguard so that they can deploy the appropriate search and rescue assets to locate you quickly.  Tracking someone’s position when a call is made using a mobile phone is difficult, whereas the VHF radio it is much easier.  

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National Maritime Operation Centre (NMOC) Photo credit: HM Coastguard

A handheld VHF radio Radio is a vital piece of safety kit for all mariners who venture out on the water whether offshore or on our inland waterways such as canals, lakes or rivers. VHF marine radio’s are used for a variety of purposes: speaking with harbour & marina control, alerting the Coastguard to an incident, weather information, ship-to-shore and ship-to-ship communication.  

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A handheld VHF radio is a fairly inexpensive piece of safety kit to buy and are relatively simple to use under pressure.  There is a multitude of good quality radio’s on the market and can be purchased over the internet without the need to visit a supplier in person. If you purchase a VHF radio it is recommended by both the HM Coastguard and RNLI that you get one that is Digital Selective Calling (DSC) equipped.

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DSC button on the rear of this VHF radio

This is a red coloured button that when pressed sends out a pre-defined automated signal of the vessel’s location via medium frequency (MF), high frequency (HF) and very high frequency (VHF) maritime radio systems. It is a core part of the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) and is a recognised emergency signal.  The more newer models will also send your GPS co-ordinates as well.

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Ramsgate’s All Weather Lifeboat Photo credit: Ramsgate Lifeboat

After pressing the DSC button the vessel/craft/person will need to make a mayday voice call (Mayday is the international signal to notify a life-threatening distress situation) on Channel 16. Channel 16 is the universal emergency channel monitored continuously by HM coastguard and other nearby vessels. This communicates the distress message to the Coastguard, all vessels and shore stations in range. The message should contain:

  • Name of your craft or vessel (if applicable)
  • Your call sign (if applicable)
  • Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) – 9 digit registered number helps identify your vessel
  • Your position – It can be given in either Latitude and Longitude or as the bearing and distance from a known geographic point
  • Nature of your distress
  • Number of people on board including the radio operator
  • Ask for immediate assistance
  • Any other information – This should include any information that might help the SAR authorities locate the vessel and assist in the distress. Such as the vessel’s colour, type of craft, the activation of an EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon), flares etc.. It is also helpful to give the rate and direction of drift if this is applicable.

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Grave and Imminent Danger

A Mayday call is only to be used in the case of “grave and imminent danger to a vessel or persons, such as vessel sinking, MOB (man-over-board) or fire”. A Mayday call is considered to be so serious that in many countries anyone communicating a false Mayday call could be prosecuted in the courts. It is solely intended to save lives.

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The operation of a VHF radio requires by law a SRC (Short Range Certificate) operator’s licence and a Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) number, which comes with the radio licence. The course instructs users in radio etiquette and procedure. The operation of a VHF radio itself is a fairly straightforward course which also teaches you about digital selective calling (DSC) functionality and emergency procedures.

You can find out where your nearest radio course is run by checking out this link

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Kayakers, personal watercraft users and dingy sailors maybe concerned about the amount of space that a radio takes up, that the battery life doesn’t last long and that it could get wet.  Many of the VHF handheld radio’s on the market are buoyant, waterproof and have a long battery life ideal incase of an emergency situation arising.

Keep Your Radio Close At Hand

It is essential to keep the VHF radio close to hand and not stowed in a dry bag in your kayak or craft.  Several kayakers have very sadly died as they couldn’t access their handheld radio or mobile phone to call for help when they got into difficulty at the coast.

In what situations do you use a Pan-Pan call?

Your may craft or vessel may have broken down and you have been left floating for some time, or have suffered significant structural damage to your craft that means your progress is very slow. Someone on board may have been taken ill, but their condition is not immediately life threatening these are the types of incidents to use a Pan-Pan call.

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Repeating the Pan-Pan call three times says to other sailors/craft/Coastguard “it is serious we need assistance but there isn’t a grave and imminent danger to the boat or anyone on board”.  For a pan-pan call the red DSC button should not be activated, but is still broadcast on channel 16 on high power. Much of the information you would provide in a Mayday call you will still need to communicate in a Pan-Pan call:

Name of vessell, Your call sign, MMSI, location, the distress nature and your intended action.  

Thank you for reading this blog and we hope that it has been useful. Stay safe!

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HM Coastguard

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More useful links

Kayaker and canoeists safety advice – Thanet RNLI Community Safety

Calling for help at the coast, but which device should I get – Thanet RNLI Community Safety

Inland Waterways Association – why do we need VHF

Marine Radio – Short Range Certificate (SRC)

rnliwatersafety rnlicommunitysafety becoastsafe
Know Who To Call If You Spot Washed Up Military Ordnance or Discarded Pyrotechnics?
Know Who To Call If You Spot Washed Up Military Ordnance or Discarded Pyrotechnics At The Coast

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.  During a spate of bad weather legacy military ordnance is often washed up onto our beaches. From time to time discarded pyrotechnic’s are also discovered.

Military Ordnance washed up onto the beach – Photo credit: Greenock CG Rescue Team

HM Coastguard advice:

  • In all cases if you ever come across something at the coast or sea which you believe could be military ordnance or a marine pyrotechnic dial ‘999’ or ‘112’ straight away and ask for the Coastguard
  • Move away to a place of safety
  • Never touch the item or move it
  • Warn others of the possible danger
  • Always call for help if you are in any doubt whatsoever

Coastguard explosion proof box with kit (photo credit Greenock CG Rescue Team)

The Coastguard Operations Centre will then task one of their 24/7 on-call Coastguard Rescue Teams (CRT’s) to investigate the find.  Once on scene they will undertake an examination of the item to ascertain if it is either military ordnance or a discarded pyrotechnic.  If it is a pyrotechnic the item will be removed and transported for safe disposal.

Flares found on the beach – Picture credit: Adrossan Coastguard

If the CRT believe it is military ordnance they will request the attendance of an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team from the British Army or Royal Navy dependant on where the find is located.   Whilst setting up a cordon to ensure public safety awaiting the arrival of the military team.

Picture credit: HM Coastguard Margate

The military EOD team will conduct a thorough risk assessment and detailed examination of the item. The operator will either remove the item back to their base for safe disposal or carry out a controlled explosion at the scene with a safe cordon in place. Police and other other ‘blue light services’ may also be called upon to assist if required.

Further reading:

Controlled explosion for device washed up on Studland Beach

Selsey Coastguard controlled explosion on Medmerry Beach

HM Coastguard roles and responsibilities

Adrossan Coastguard WordPress – blog

How to dispose of time expired pyrotechnic’s (flares) – Thanet CS Team

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HM Coastguard

Margate, Greenock and Ardrossan Coastguard Rescue teams for pictures

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Coastal Lockdown Water Safety – How To Help Keep You and Your Family Safe
Coastal Lockdown Water Safety – How To Help Keep You and Your Family Safe

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.

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When RNLI volunteer crews and HM Coastguard Rescue Teams are called out to an incident it puts additional pressure on them and other blue light emergency services, as well as potentially exposing them to COVID-19.  Please take care and follow government instructions: stay home, protest the NHS and save lives.

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It is therefore even more imperative to take precautions if you are live close to the coast and you visit.  Cold water shock is an ever present danger in the UK’s coastal water’s.  The RNLI state that “anything below 15°C is defined as cold water and can seriously affect your breathing and movement, so the risk is significant most of the year.  Average UK and Ireland sea temperatures are just 12°C. Rivers such as the Thames are colder – even in the summer.

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“The sudden cooling of the skin by cold water also causes an involuntary gasp for breath. Breathing rates can change uncontrollably, sometimes increasing as much as tenfold. All these responses contribute to a feeling of panic, increasing the chance of inhaling water directly into the lungs.

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This can all happen very quickly: it only takes half a pint of sea water to enter the lungs for a fully grown man to start drowning. You could die if you don’t get medical care immediately”.

You may remember the story of Ravi the 10-year old boy from August in Skegness. Who remembered the ‘Float to Live’ technique which he had seen on the television programme ‘Saving Lives At Sea’ which ultimately helped save his own life.

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Ravi – Skegness Lifeboat Photo credit: RNLI

If you enter the water unexpectedly follow this drill:

  • Take a minute. The initial effects of cold water pass in less than a minute so don’t try to swim straight away.
  • Relax and float on your back to catch your breath. Try to get hold of something that will help you float.
  • Keep calm then call for help or swim for safety if you’re able.

The Water Safety Code which is jointly supported by the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) and RLSS (Royal Lifesaving Society) which is included below should be followed:

Respectthewater covid-19 lockdown margatelifeboat margatecoastguard thanet lifeguards RNLIwatersafety RNLIcommunitysafety bebeachsafe watersafetycode westgate-on-seaBewateraware RNLI RNLIWatersafety RNLICommunitysafety RNLISeasafety Thanetlifeguards Margate Ramsgate Broadstairs

Thanet is very lucky to have some fabulous coastline, charming sandy beaches and fantastic places to visit.  If you are luckily enough to live to the coast here’s some tips on how to keep you and your family/friends safe should things go wrong.

  • Carry a fully charged mobile phone
  • Check the weather and tide times before you venture out
  • Tell someone where you are going and what time you will return
  • Go with a friend if possible
  • Keep back from cliff edges, harbour walls and marina’s (no selfie is worth the risk)
  • Wear the right clothing and equipment for the activity
  • Read and heed local warning signs often positioned at the entrance to beaches
  • Be aware of your surroundings at all times as it is easy to get distracted
  • If you unexpectedly enter the water float on your back and resist the urge to thrash around
  • If you hear or see an animal or person in difficulty in the water, don’t enter the water, dial ‘999’ ask for the Coastguard and give an accurate location

Thank you for reading stay safe!

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Useful links: 

Can I suffer from cold water shock?

Know to to call in a coastal emergency

Sign-up to our newsletter

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Royal National Lifeboat Institution

HM Coastguard

Royal Lifesaving Society

Margate LPO

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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.

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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Follow Thanet RNLI Community Safety on our Social Media Channels

Follow Thanet RNLI Community Safety on our social media channels!

You can keep up to date with the Thanet RNLI Community Safety team on all the popular social networking sites including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram !

News stories and communications about our events and activities as well as safety advice are posted to these social networks virtually every day….so it is worth following us.  Due to COVID-19 safety protocols our team have not been able to hold any public facing community engagements. Therefore we have tried our best to share as much as possible across our social media channels.

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You can find our twitter account at

We also have a page on Facebook at


We very much looking forward to your visits to our pages.

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Our monthly e-newsletter is bristling with the latest RNLI Community Safety news and top water safety tips. You can sign-up for free so that you can receive the e-newsletter straight to your inbox.  Find out more information on how to sign-up today!

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Thank you for reading and stay safe!

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Metal Detecting At The Coast or Inland – Do You Have An Emergency Plan Should Things Go Wrong If You Are Close To Open Water?

Metal Detecting At The Coast or Inland – Do you have an emergency plan should things go wrong if you are operating close to open water?

Metal detecting has been around for many years and is increasing in popularity.  Whether you have a passion for history or treasure hunting it is a great way to keep fit, improve your wellbeing by being outside in the fresh air, discover history and meet new friends.

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Photo credit: Rosemaria Pixabay

Metal Detecting Clubs & Kit

There are a whole host of metal detecting clubs up and down the country that you can join which will enable you to swop tips on the best kit to buy, discuss historical finds, attend rallies and events; and discover favoured locations to detect. To get you started as a metal detectorist you will need a minimum amount of kit namely a metal detector (waterproof or underwater version if you are planning on using it on wet sand or near water), bag for carrying your kit, headphones, stout footwear and a digging implement.

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Photo credit Ben_Kerckx Pixabay

What about Insurance?

Once you have built up some experience and knowledge then you may wish to extend your metal detecting kit, but this is down to personal preference.  Insurance is also recommended, although not mandatory and maybe required for participation at rallies and events. Some clubs membership fees includes public liability insurance.

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Image by Rottonara Pixabay

Do I need a license to metal detect?

You don’t need a license to use a metal detector in the UK, but there are laws about their use. People using a metal detector on private land without permission is illegal without first gaining approval from the owner. ‘Nighthawking’ is a term used to describe illegal metal detecting on farmland, archaeological sites and other areas of archaeological interest, often to steal coins and other artefacts for their historical and financial value.  The National Council for Metal Detecting has published an agreed Code of Conduct for all metal detectorists which will help you get the most out of this fascinating hobby, but also stay the right side of the law.

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Photo credit : Goumbik Pixabay

What is Operation Chronos?

It is also illegal to undertake metal detecting on a scheduled ancient monument, area of archaelogical importance or Ministry of Defence property.  If you are in any doubt always speak with the landowner or the appropriate authority first. The issue of ‘night hawking’ (which can also be committed during the day time) resulted in the setting up of a national policing operation called ‘Operation Chronos’ which focuses on identifying the criminal minority who are intent on stealing cultural heritage.

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Metal detecting on the beach and the Crown Estate

The beach can be a great place to carry out your hobby of metal detecting.  Planning your visit during the Summer months either early in the morning or later on in the day will help avoid the crowds.  Anyone wishing to carry out metal detecting on the beach often referred to as the Crown Estate foreshore (defined as the land between mean high water and mean low water) may do so without a formal consent from The Crown Estate.

This permission applies to Crown Estate foreshore only and not to the seabed, river beds, or any other Crown Estate land. Find out more about the areas owned by the Crown Estate 

Some beaches acround the coast maybe privately owned.  It is worth checking locally whether this is the case.

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Metal detecting on the River Thames

Metal detecting on the River Thames foreshore requires a separate permit from the Port of London Authority. For more information e-mail or telephone 01474-562-332

What is the procedure if I find treasure?

If you are lucky enough to make a find on the beach then will need to check that whether it counts as treasure or wreck material.  Find out more about the summary definition of what constitutes treasure and how to report it to the Finds Officer 

If you make an unusual find on any other land you must inform the owner and consult the Voluntary Reporting of Portable Antiquities in England and Wales and the mandatory reporting requirements in Scotland.

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Who should I inform if I find wreck material?

If you recover any wreck material you will need to report it to the HM Coastguard who acts as the Receiver of Wreck within 28 days otherwise you could be fined £2,500 Find out more about what constitutes wreck material and how to report it

Contact details for the Receiver of the Wreck : 020 3817 2575

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Image by Pixabay

Have you thought about your emergency plan or drill?

As well as getting the most out of your hobby it is vital to have an emergency plan or drill should things go wrong when you are out and about. This is particularly important as some of the time you maybe operating alone or in a very isolated location close to open water.

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We’ve put together this advice guide to help you stay safe:

1.  Always check the tides and weather before you venture out. There are plenty of free smart device app’s that can be downloaded to aid you.  Countryside organisations and water companies all publish information which is useful to find out about open water and it’s inherent risks.  Half of the people that drown each year never intended on entering the water in the first place eg people who have slipped or tripped and got into difficulty.

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2.  Wear the right clothing for the time of year and be prepared for inclimate weather.  If you are operating close to open water it is recommended to wear a correctly fitted lifejacket or personal floatation device.

3.  Tell someone where you are going and what will be the latest time you will return.  The what3words app is useful to give a precise location of where you will be operating.  On smart phones the compass app will display the longitude and latitude or alternatively try the OS locate app.

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4.  Carry a ‘calling for help’ device such as a fully charged mobile phone so that you can summon the Coastguard (if at the coast for a coastal emergency or on the River Thames) and the Fire and Rescue Service for other inland water emergencies


5.  Be aware of your surroundings when metal detecting on the beach or close to open water such as rivers, lakes, reservoirs or quarries.  Tides change very quickly and so do weather conditions. What appears to be a benign stretch of water in the Summer can be totally different out of season or in adverse weather.

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6.  Take heed of local warning signs

7.  Stay clear of cliff edges and rocks can be slippery

8.  Don’t enter the water if you get cut-off by the tide call out for help. If you can, ring ‘999’ ask for the Coastguard giving an accurate as possible location using any landmarks or points of reference. If you are inland eg river, pool, canal, reservoir or loch dial ‘999’ ask for the Fire Service.

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9.  If you see someone in the water don’t enter and attempt a rescue. Call for help via ‘999’ and throw them either a throwline bag or lifebouy which are located along some coastlines, river banks or other areas of open water. If you can’t find one of these throw them something which floats and they can hang onto until professional help arrives.

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10.  From time-to-time legacy military ordnance and pyrotechnic’s get found on the shore. Always dial ‘999’ and ask for the Coastguard who will attend the scene to establish a safe cordon, risk assess the item and call for assistance from the Army or Royal Navy Explosive Ordnance Team if appropriate

We hope you have a great time enjoying your metal detecting and we wish you well on your hunt for treasure!

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We strongly recommend checking the government website for the latest up-to-date rules and tier controls for any area/country you visit to undertake any activity.  Please help our NHS colleagues and comply with the regulations in force, by staying at home and only going out when necessary will help save lives. Stay safe and thank you for reading!

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Other useful links

Portable Antiquities Scheme

Saxon Shore Metal Detecting Club help lifeguards clear Margate beach

How to check the tide times

Know how to float to live – follow Evan’s story

Know who to call if you spot washed up military ordnance or discarded pyrotechnic’s

The Alliance to Reduce Crime against Heritage (ARCH)

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National Council for Metal Detecting (NCMD)

HM Coastguard

British Museum


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Ever thought of becoming a Marine Mammal Medic?
Ever thought of becoming a Marine Mammal Medic?

Have you ever wanted to be able to give immediate care to mammals when they are washed up onto the shore in your local area or who maybe in distress?  Have you heard of the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR)?

The BDMLR is a voluntary network of trained marine mammal medics who respond to call outs from the public, HM Coastguard, Police, RSPCA and SSPCA and are the only marine animal rescue organisation operating across England, Wales and Scotland. Not only are they called upon by the other emergency services, but also train their staff.

BDMLR is a registered charity and is operated entirely by volunteers. Their rescue teams are on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The BDMLR are always on the the look-out for people to help support the charity carry out their vital rescue work

BDMLR’s medic base includes people from all walks of life and occupations.  You don’t have to be a diver to become trained as a medic, but just a positive attitude, don’t mind getting cold and wet and able-bodied.  If you don’t fancy becoming a medic, then there are a variety of other roles such as fundraising and attending local events to publicise the vital work of BDMLR.

Mass stranding exercise Photo credit BDMLR

From time to time a significant number of seals across the UK come ashore to take refuge because of the weather conditions. People often call the Coastguard and the BDMLR to report seeing them on beaches, mistakenly thinking they might be injured. 

Incase you ever come across a marine mammal who has been washed up on the beach or maybe in distress please put these numbers into your phone (shown below) for easy access.

01825 765546 Monday-Friday 9am-5pm
07787 433412 Out of office hours and Bank Holidays

HM Coastguard Dover 24/7 Op’s Room 01304-210008 (dead mammals)

RSPCA 0300-1234-999 (Injured Birds/animals)

Thanet District Council 01843-577000 (out of hours)

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Photo credit : BDMLR

If you do have cause to report an injured or washed up mammal please have the following details ready:

  • Please note the place(giving as much information as possible eg which bay or beach). You can use What3words
  • the state of the tide
  • any injuries you can see without getting close

The BDMLR will then advise you on what to do and will get a trained medic out as soon as possible

BDMLR stand at Walmer Lifeboat Station Open Day 2019

Deceased mammals

The deceased mammals measurements will be taken by the Coastguard and information submitted to the Natural History Museum. The local authority in the case of Thanet, Thanet District Council  will then arrange for safe removal.

More useful information

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Useful links:

British Divers Marine Life Rescue

How to help the British Divers Marine Life Rescue

RNLI article on what to do if you come across a mammal on the beach

Our top tips on how to avoid getting cut-off by the tide if you are out for a coastal walk

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Mass mammal stranding exercise Photo credit BDMLR

Photo credits:


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Have you downloaded the ‘What3Words’ app yet? It could help you in an emergency..

Have you downloaded the What3Words app yet? It could help you in an emergency situation

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.

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Photo credit: What2Words

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.

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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.

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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.

It has recently been adopted by the British Transport Police, Police Forces in Avon and Somerset, Humberside and West Yorkshire, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Services.

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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.”

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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

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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.

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National Maritime Operation Centre (NMOC) HM Coastguard

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”….

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What3Words logo

Can you find these locations using the App?




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Kent Fire and Rescue Appliance

Useful links

Three-unique words ‘map’ used to rescue mother and child – BBC

Download the Apple What3Words App

Download the Android What3Words App

BTP Lancashire successfully use What 3 Words App to locate vulnerable person

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RNLI Flood Rescue vehicle pictured alongside the Margate All Weather Lifeboat photo credit: A Mills



Greenock Coastguard Team

National Fire Chief’s Council

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service

HM Coastguard

Kent Search and Rescue (KSAR)

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Why Should You Be Extra Specially Careful This Year If You Are Thinking Of Taking A Festive Dip
Why Should You Be Extra Specially Careful This Year If You Are Thinking Of Taking A Festive Dip?

RNLI lifeboat stations, the RLSS (UK Royal Life Saving Society) and their affiliated lifesaving clubs, in common with many other charitable organisations, have cancelled their very popular festive swimming events due to COVID-19 safety considerations. Also taking into account the responsibility to ensure that  blue light emergency services are not called out needlessly and the impact on the National Health Service is managed.

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The RNLI and RLSS  are urging anyone who does venture into the sea or other open water locations over the Christmas and New Year period to be aware of the risks and enjoy themselves as safely as possible.

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Margate’s Mersey All Weather lifeboat Photo credit: Sarah Hewes

The RNLI and HM Coastguard have both been busy responding to incidents involving swimmers this winter.

Earlier in December the Portishead lifeboat crew rescued a swimmer who had been in the sea for 80 minutes, while Sunderland lifeboat pulled another to safety after spotting him in the rough conditions thanks to his bright orange swimming cap and tow float.

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Have Emergency call-outs to swimming related incidents increased?

HM Coastguard have reported a 79.8%* increase in emergency call-outs for swimming related incidents year-on-year between January and November, compared to the same period in 2019.

Lee Heard, RLSS UK – Director, said: ‘While festive dips are an increasingly popular tradition with brave bathers in plummeting temperatures, we are concerned that with the cancellation of well organised and lifeguarded events combined with a rise in open water swimming participation this year that individuals may still choose to dip this festive period.

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‘We simply urge swimmers to stay safe, be prepared and consider their actions on our already stressed emergency services, including the RNLI’s volunteer lifeboat crews.’

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Cold water shock is a very real danger for anyone entering water which is 15°C or below, with the average sea temperature around the UK and Ireland at this time of year just 6-10°C – which also poses a risk of hypothermia, even for the most experienced of open water swimmers.

RNLI Water Safety Partner Samantha Hughes said: ‘No one goes into the water in the expectation of needing to be rescued but we are asking anyone considering going for a festive dip to understand the dangers and not take unnecessary risks so they can have a good time, safely.

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Library picture

‘We recommend checking with your doctor before trying a cold water dip for the first time, especially if you have underlying health issues.

‘It is important to respect the water and there are a number of things you can do to help ensure you have an enjoyable and safe time such as not swimming alone, staying in your depth and knowing how to warm up properly afterwards which sounds obvious but is crucial to avoid any delayed effects of the cold and hypothermia.

COVID19 CoronaVirus coastguard knowwhotocall coastal emergency

‘The most important thing to remember is if you are in any doubt, stay out of the water and if you or anyone else does get into trouble in or on the water please call ‘999’ or ‘112’ immediately and ask for the Coastguard.’

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What top safety tips should I follow if I intend going for a festive dip?
  • How can I be prepared? Check the weather forecast, tides and wave height
  • What should I take with me? Plenty of warm clothes for use pre and post dip. A nice hot drink in a flask such as soup, tea or maybe a hot chocolate will assist in warming you up afterwards.
  • What ‘calling for help device’ should I take : a mobile phone in a waterproof pouch.
  • Should I wear a wetsuit? Yes, this will help increase your buoyancy and reduce the chances of suffering from cold water shock
  • Should I go with a friend? If at all possible, if you can’t go to a familiar bathing spot and tell someone when you plan to be back
  • What happens if I jump straight into the water?  This could lead to cold water shock, walk in slowly. acclimatise slowly and wait until your breathing is under control before swimming
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Pictured: Catherine from Frosties, a year-round swimming group in Skerries, on the north Dublin coast. Credit: Photo: RNLI/Anna Burn
  • Should I wear a brightly coloured swim cap and consider using a tow float?  Yes, always wear one that is brightly coloured and a tow float is highly recommended.
  • How deep should I go? Know your limits and don’t stay in the water for more than 10 minutes
  • I have heard of ‘float to live’ what does it mean? – If you get into trouble lean back in the water, extending your arms and legs, and resisting the urge to thrash around to gain control of your breathing. This is what the RNLI call ‘Float to Live’.
  • What number and who do I call if I get into difficulty or see someone else in trouble?  Dial ‘999’ or ‘112’ immediately ask for the Coastguard giving as accurate location as possible
  • If I am in any doubt what should I do? There is always another day to go for a swim, if you have any doubts stay out of the water

Thank you for reading and stay safe!

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Other useful links

Professor Mike Tipton – How to survive cold water shock

Sign-up to our newsletter

Ant Middleton – cold water shock

Demystifying rip currents

Margate Lifeboat

Ramsgate Lifeboat

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Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI)

HM Coastguard (HMCG)

Royal Lifesaving Society (RLSS)

Professor Mike Tipton – Portsmouth University

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Do You Enjoying Bodyboarding? Here’s How To Stay Safe

Do You Enjoying Bodyboarding? Here’s How To Stay Safe

Bodyboarding is of the most popular board sports invented, with a reported 20 million surfers and bodyboarder’s across the world with the number on the increase.  Every bodyboarder has her/his own reasons for taking up the sport, however, the mixture of physical exercise, increase in wellbeing and mental health; being at one with nature; and getting a great dose of sunlight and sea air appear to be some of the the main benefits.   Numerous self-help groups across coastal area’s have sprung up using bodyboarding to combat mental health issues.

Margate Community Blue Light Day exercise 2019 – Photo credit: Sarah Hewes

Lifeguards and Lifeboat Crews are regularly called out to assist and deal with incidents involving bodyboarders.  Here are some safety tips to help you stay safe whilst having a fun time:

Top 11 Body Boarding Safety Tips

1. Body Boarding is much more fun with a mate –  It is always better to surf alongside another person for safety sake incase one of you should get into difficulty

2. Let someone know that you’re going out, the location & what is the latest time you will be back –  this is so important incase the HM Coastguard/Lifeboat have to start a search

3. Check out the tide times and weather forecast – there are plenty of free smart device app’s available to download for weather forecasting and tide times

4. Have you considered the dangers of rip currents? They are the cause of a significant number of lifeguard call-outs every year.  More information on rip currents

5. Be realistic about your limits. Even the most experienced bodyboarders have been caught out in the past.

6. Grab some training. There are a multitude of approved bodyboarding schools across the country. Why not grab a few lessons yourself before you head out for the first time.

7. Always wear a leash – So you don’t become separated from your board.  If you have got hold of your board you will have something to keep you afloat should you get into difficulty. It will also help lifeboat and Coastguard crews locate you more easily.

8. Wear the correct wetsuit – As well as keeping you warm, wetsuits will give some additional protection from rock scrapes or surfboard impacts.

9. Always think about other surfers and water users – learn about surfer etiquette and rights of way

10. Know who to call in a coastal emergency – If you see or hear someone or an animal that you think is in difficulty in the water dial ‘999’ or ‘112’ and ask for the Coastguard straight away.

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11. Bodyboard between the red and yellow flags – the lifeguards are an excellent source of local knowledge eg hazards, tide times, weather forecasts, injury prevention amongst others.  The RNLI indicate that “British and Irish waters are incredibly unpredictable and one of the biggest dangers with bodyboarding is surfing outside of the red and yellow flag lifeguarded area, outside of lifeguard hours”. 

Useful statistics

RNLI lifeboat crews launched 18 times to bodyboarders in trouble in 2016. In addition, RNLI lifeguards went to the rescue in 883 bodyboarding related incidents. Over half of these incidents incidents involved rip currents.  


Ramsgate’s Atlantic 85 Inshore Lifeboat

Useful links

British Bodyboarding Club

British Surfing

Surfing England

British Surfing UK Surfing Guide

Surfers Against Sewage

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HM Coastguard