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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)?
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.
‘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.
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.
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.
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.”
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
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.
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”….
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.
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.
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.
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.
‘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.’
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.
‘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.
‘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.’
What top safety tips should I follow if I intend going for a festive dip?
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
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
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.
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.
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”.
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.
Tombstoning is an activity which has been around for many generations, unfortunately, due to recent incidents whereby three people tragically died in 2020 and many more suffered life changing injuries it has gained notriety.
Tombstoning is defined as the act of jumping in a straight, upright vertical position into the sea, river or other body of water from a high jumping platform such as a cliff top, bridge or harbour edge. The posture of the body, resmbling a tombstone that gives it’s name to the activity.
You may have read in the news or seen on social media that three people were seriously injured between 30-31st May at Durdle Door, Dorset. Here’s a video made by Ladbible in conjunction with the RNLI on a rescue by two beachgoers who saved a man from drowning after jumping off a cliff:
Tombstoning offers a high-risk, high-impact experience but it can have severe and life-threatening consequences. Consider these dangers first before you jump in:
The depth of water can alter rapidly with the tide – the water may be shallower than it first appears
Submerged objects like rocks, shopping trolley’s and broken bottles may not be visible – these can cause serious impact injuries
Cold water can make it difficult to swim
Getting oneself out of the water is often more challenging than people realise
Strong currents can rapidly sweep people away
What Should You Do Before Undertaking Tombstoning
Check for hazards in the water. Rocks, discarded shopping trolley’s or glass may be submerged in the water and difficult to see
Always check the depth of the water. Tides can rise and fall very quickly
A jump of ten metres requires a depth of at least five metres
Jumping into water under the influence of alcohol or drugs can distort your judgement and make you more suspectible to taking more risks
Check for access. It may be impossible to get out of the water
Consider the risks to yourself and others. Conditions can change rapidly – young people could be watching and may attempt to mimic the activity.If you jump when you feel unsafe or pressured, you probably won’t enjoy the experience.
Senior RNLI Lifeguard Supervisor, Stuart Cattell, said: “We know it can be very tempting during hot weather to jump into the sea from a pier or groyne, especially if you’re on the beach with a group of friends.
“Unfortunately it’s impossible to see hidden hazards under the surface, or to tell how deep the water is. Tombstoning means playing Russian roulette with your own safety.
“There have been 20 tombstoning deaths in the UK since 2005 and 70 reported injuries. Several people ahead of you might jump safely, but if you hit the beach – or a piece of wood or concrete on your way down – at the wrong angle, you could end up with life-changing head injuries, broken bones or permanently paralysis. Please stick to enjoying the weather and the sea by swimming or using kayaks or SUPs safely.”
The best way to learn about the risks involved and have a good experience is to try coasteering – a mix of scrambling, climbing, traversing and cliff jumping around the coast with a professional guide.
How To Enjoy A Fabulous & Safe Time At The Coast This Summer – Our Ultimate Guide
Just recently we’ve been very fortunate to enjoy some really nice weather and higher temperatures. Hurrah I hear you say! This has resulted in large numbers of people flocking to the beach to soak up the sun and enjoy the seaside.
The RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution), along with the HM Coastguard and all the Volunteer Beach Wardens who are helping to keep our beaches safe during COVID-19 want everyone to have a fabulous time, but to take on board some simple safety advice which will enable you to enjoy a safe time too.
You may have read some of the media reports that the RNLI have rescued countless people on inflatables so far this year who have drifted out to sea. Two young people were safely rescued off Botany Bay, Broadstairs in July 2019. Our advice about taking inflatables to the coast is that they are meant for the pool and not the sea. If you do use them in the sea follow this advice:
Children should be supervised at all times by an adult
Inflatables should be kept close to the shoreline
Inflatables should only be used between the red and yellow flags on a lifeguarded beach
Never use an inflatable in big waves
Never use an inflatable when the orange windsock is flying as this indicates off-shore winds that will blow the inflatable out to sea
Always follow the advice of a lifeguard
Whenever you take to the sea we recommend that you and your children wear a suitable lifejacket or buoyancy aid. This will provide the necessary flotation should the inflatable suffer a puncture or similar
Float to Live
Enjoying a great swim in the sea is a fantastic way to relax and enjoy some exercise. However, if you do find yourself in difficulty or fall into the water unexpectedly remember to ‘Float to Live’ and watch this short video which could help save your life.
Cold Water Shock
Have you heard of ‘cold water shock’? This video will give you some lifesaving advice about ‘cold water shock’. Some tips to help you survive cold water shock include:
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
Taking alittle time before you set up for the day to think about the five safety tips above will help you enjoy an enjoyable time. Lifeguards are frequently notified of missing children so having a plan incase a child goes missing is really worthwhile. Children’s waterproof wrist bands which carry their parents/guardians mobile telephone contact number are available from the Lifeguards at most beaches. Due to the COVID-19 situation the only beaches which are patrolled by RNLI lifeguards in Thanet are Viking Bay, Broadstairs and Margate Main Sands.
Knowing who to call in the event of hearing or seeing a person or animal in the water in difficulty or at the coast is so important. Over half the people we speak to during our events don’t know to dial ‘999’ or ‘112’ and ask for the Coastguard. Asking for another emergency service could waste vital minutes in getting specialist search and rescue teams; and the correct equipment to the scene quickly. More information on knowing who to call in a coastal emergency
Cut-Off by the tide
Around Thanet we are very lucky to have some beautiful coastline which is fabulous for walking and exploring. Similar to other parts of the UK, some of this coastline (Dumpton Gap, Stone Bay and environs, Botany Bay and Kingsgate Bay) gets cut-off by the in-coming tide and every year people have to be rescued by lifeguards and lifeboat crews. Getting cut-off by the tide is pretty easy to do unless you take some precautions:
John Homer one of our team’s most experienced Community Safety Advisors said “we hope everyone has an excellent time at the beach and the weather stays warm. Please take some time to think about the safety advice and have a plan if things go wrong. In 2019 two young people who were swept out to sea on an inflatable at Botany Bay knew how to ‘float to live’ definitely saved their lives”.
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