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.
RNLI Lifeboats have faced a summer like now other with statistics revealing a huge increase in the number of people (water users***) requiring assistance by local lifeboat crews compared to the year 2019.
Lifeboat stations see increase in call-outs
Based on incident reports (provisional)** submitted by RNLI lifeboat stations around the UK and Ireland, there was a 64% increase in the number of recreational water users assisted by the RNLI. After every emergency call-out an incident return has to be submitted by the station detailing what the incident was about, the location, action taken etc).
Lifeguards reported increase in beach visitor numbers
Lifeguards also reported seeing a significant increase in the number of visitors to beaches around the coast. RNLI lifeguards working on two beaches in Thanet carried out an unprecedented number of rescues -including 24 people rescued in a single day at Ramsgate Main Beach and carrying out a successful CPR on a six year old girl who had collapsed and stopped breathing at Botany Bay.
The Lifeguards also rescued a man in his 50’s at Botany Bay who was out of his depth and being hit against the chalk sea stack to the west of the beach.
On Friday, 31st RNLI lifeguards Neil Morgan (member of our Community Safety Team & Ramsgate Lifeboat crew) and Chris Wilson, patrolling on Ramsgate Main Beach, had to rescue 24 people who were in danger of being swept out to sea by rip currents.
Those rescued included children, adults and the elderly. In one incident, lifeguard Neil Morgan had to dive into the water with his rescue tube after spotting two children who had been caught in a rip current and were being swept towards the harbour entrance. Neil and Chris also escorted a further six children to safety.
In another incident lifeguards took to a rescue ATV (quad bike) to get close to a group of swimmers who were in danger and close to the harbour entrance and persuaded them to come to shore for their safety.
HM Coastguard reported the day as having the highest number of call-outs in four years.
The statistics include people who got into trouble whilst :
Biggest Increase this Summer in incidents involving inflatables
In the South East of England which includes covering 31 lifeboat stations stretching from the Thames to Swanage, saw the biggest increase the summer 2020 (June to August) in incidents involving inflatables.
During 2019 lifeboat stations in the South East launched 20 times to people in difficulty with inflatables and 26 people were helped. In 2020 there were 37 launches and 89 people aided – a 242.3% increase.
The second biggest increase was lifeboat launches to waterside activities which includes:
In 2019 RNLI lifeboats in the South East launched 10 times to these types of incidents and helped nine people, in 2020 there were 14 launches and 28 people helped – an increase of 211.1%.
The growing popularity of paddle boarding during 2020 is also reflected in the figures. In 2019 the South East’s lifeboats launched eight times and four paddle boarders were assisted. In 2020 the number of launches increased to 12 with 12 people also assisted by crews.
Inflatables are not designed for the coast!
The South East RNLI Water Safety Lead Guy Addington, said “the figures highlighted the dangers inflatables can pose at the coast and urged people to leave them at home in the future:
“Inflatables can be great fun, but they are not designed for the beach as it’s easy to get swept out to sea,’ As these figures demonstrate, inflatables are one of the most common reasons our lifeboat crews are called to action during the summer months”.
‘They are particularly dangerous when there are strong offshore winds and there were a number of incidents around the South East this summer where people, in some cases children, suddenly found themselves being swept hundreds of metres offshore. Were it not for our lifeboat crews responding so quickly some of these incidents could easily have resulted in a tragedy. The best place to enjoy inflatables is in an enclosed area such as a swimming pool”.
As the light faded, time was of the essence and with a police helicopter hovering overhead as a marker, the lifeboat was on the scene in 12 minutes and rescued the pair who by that time had become separated from their inflatable. They were cold and distressed and had been in the water for 40 minutes.
On the same day the crew also rescued a seven-year-old girl spotted drifting out to sea on an inflatable lollipop and an 11-year-old on an inflatable dinghy.
Margate & Ramsgate Lifeboats are often called out incidents involving inflatables
Both Margate and Ramsgate lifeboats are also often called to incidents involving inflatables during the summer months, several of which turn out to be beach toys drifting out to sea. Both stations were kept busy during lockdown 1.0 with some days seeing their respective crew pagers going off more than once in a 24 hour period.
‘This is the other big concern with inflatable beach toys,’ explained Guy. ‘Often lifeboat crews are launched to inflatables drifting out to sea because of fears there could be people in the water. Extensive searches are often carried out only to discover the toys have been blown off the beach. This could mean the lifeboat crew are unable to respond to other, perhaps more serious, incidents”.
“With Christmas just a month away we’d urge anyone considering buying their loved one an inflatable to put safety first and make it clear it’s not to be used on the coast,” he added.
The RNLI’s Head of Water Safety, Gareth Morrison, said: ‘Our volunteer crews have been on call throughout the pandemic. This year, they faced a summer like no other.
‘When lockdown restrictions eased, we saw people flock to the beaches to enjoy our coastlines instead of holidaying abroad. But that resulted in a huge number of people getting into difficulty around our coasts, with our lifesavers facing an incredibly busy summer.
‘If you find yourself in trouble at the coast this winter, call ‘999’ and ask for the Coastguard.’
Personal protective Equipment – COVID-19
The RNLI has spent £1.2M on personal protective equipment this year to help keep its volunteers and lifeguards and the public safe during COVID-19, including almost 700,000 face masks, 2.4 million gloves and 4,700 litres of hand sanitiser. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 risk assessments lifeboat fundraising events and shops have had to be cancelled and or shut (including Ramsgate and Margate’s fantastic fundraising teams).
RNLI Lifeboat Crews Still On-Call
RNLI Lifeboat crew have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to keep people safe as lockdown restrictions eased and people flocked to the coast. The RNLI relies on the support of the public to continue saving lives – and that support is needed now more than ever. The charity has launched its Christmas Appeal. Why not find out more how you can help the RNLI this Christmas. Thanks for reading and stay safe.
**The complete statistics for lifeguards and lifeboats will be available in early 2021.
*** Waterside activities include paddling up to the knees, wading up to the chest, beach combing, cockle, mussel picking (not commercial) cycling, driving (or parked in vehicle) horse-riding, metal detecting, playing games (non-competitive), relaxing and rock pooling.
Kitesurfing is arguably one of the most exciting and adrenaline fuelled sports you can do on the water. But, staying safe is the most crucial part in having a fabulous time. This blog explores some of the basic safety aspects of kitesurfing.
What is Kitesurfing?
Kitesurfing also known as kiteboarding (combining aspects of wakeboarding, snow boarding, windsurfing, surfing, paragliding and skateboarding) is a wind-powered water sport utilising a kite and a board to help propel you across water. Despite the name, it doesn’t have to involve wave surfing kitesurfing can be done on flat expanses of water, as well as in choppy sea or in big waves. All you need is water and wind. Dependant on the strength of the wind and size of rider various sizes of kites are available.
UK and Irish waters are incredibly unpredictable and one of the biggest risks which kitesurfers face is kiting alone or in adverse weather conditions.
RNLI lifeboat crews launched 99 times to kitesurfers in trouble in 2015. Out of these call-outs the majority were down to adverse conditions and kit failure. RNLI Lifeguards were called to deal with 54 kitesurfing related incidents in 2015.
Following some simple steps to stay safe will reduce your chances of getting into difficulty and also help you gain the most out of this fabulous sport.
Kitesurfing Safety Hacks
Always kite with another person
If you do go alone, take a protected means of ‘calling for help’ such as a fully charged mobile phone, VHF radio and or Personal Locator Beacon (registered to you) which is easily accessible at all times.
3. Tell someone where you are kiting and the latest time that you will return. Consider downloading the free to use SafeTrx app on your smart device registering yourself as the vessel. This will help the Coastguard and lifeboat locate you quickly should things go wrong.
4. Never ride out further than you can swim back.
5. Have a plan should your equipment fail, practise your drills regularly.
6. Prior to kiting check the weather, tides and swell forecasts. Popular swell forecast websites and app’s include: Windfinder, Wind Guru and Magic Seaweed. When talking about checking the swell always consider: Wave height, Swell direction and Power of the waves.
7. Always kite within your capability, don’t go out in conditions which you can’t handle. If the conditions are on the edge of your ability wait until a day where you can easily kite.
8. If you are a new comer to the sport or haven’t been kiting for a while grab some coaching sessions from a recognised/approved instructor or club. Follow safety advice from the British Kitesports Association and other registered clubs.
If you are learning overseas, make sure that you can communicate easily with your instructor. Never be afraid to ask about the kit you will be using. Learning with new equipment in excellent condition is ideal, beginners should always be given personal flotation devices (PFD) and helmets as standard.
9. Check what size of kite other riders are using. If you don’t have the correct size don’t go out.
10. Wear the right kit for the job eg wetsuit, helmet, buoyancy aid, boots whilst on the water. Long sleeved top/trousers, helmet, knee/elbow pads, back protection and strong footwear for land based activity.
11. Observe kitesport zones – Please observe local regulations and if you are unsure ask other riders, beach users or local beach/coastal officials.
12. If you are asking someone to assist you in launching or landing provide some training to help them carry out the procedures. Don’t ask anyone to help/land who isn’t familiar with kites.
13. Check out the latest government advice for the area where you will be operating to ensure you comply with the latest COVID-19 pandemic regulations.
Andy Mills (Thanet RNLI Community Safety Team) says “Our team want people to enjoy themselves kitesurfing at the coast by making sure their visit is one to remember and not one they would rather forget. Taking some simple precautions and having a plan should things go wrong will help hugely in keeping people safe.”
A massive thank you to everyone who attended the Thanet Coastal Patrol Briefing on Saturday 16th March at RNLI Ramsgate Lifeboat station. We really appreciated your time. We hope that you found the briefing informative and helpful in giving you an increased awareness around:
➡️ To call the Coastguard for all Coastal Emergencies via ‘999’ without delay ➡️ The Float to Live concept ➡️ To phone the Coastguard on finding military ordnance on the beach ➡️ RNLI safety message sharing ➡️ Information on local Search and Rescue Assets e.g. lifeboats and Coastguard Rescue Teams ➡️ Contact info on British Divers Marine Life Rescue – Dorset on finding a mammal on the beach ➡️ Safety principles around helping to rescue a person in the water from the shore line using appropriate equipment & techniques ➡️ Identifying a person in a potential mental health crisis and how to get them help quickly
Our team are looking forward to developing this concept further in the future with further safety updates and awareness inputs. Thank you
Boating should be fun. Every year the RNLI launches their lifeboats to thousands of incidents, many of which could have been prevented by following simple safety precautions or having a plan in the event of something going wrong. The RNLI Community Safety Teams can help you make your boat as safe as possible.
Advice on Board
The RNLI provides a wide range of safety advice to participants of all types of water based activity. One of the specialist areas that our Community Safety Team can provide is an ‘Advice on Board’ session. This can be at a marina or harbour where your boat is moored; at your home or work address or other location where your vessel is stored. It can include any almost any type of leisure craft and be tailored to a time and date that suits you.
The aim of the ‘Advice on Board’ session is a confidential one-to-one discussion with you about onboard safety and equipment. The session is not a ‘pass or fail’ inspection. It is not a safety check or an MoT like a garage would provide for your car, but a useful way of you thinking about: ‘what am I already doing about safety and how can I improve it’.
Here are just some of the discussional items that we will include during an ‘Advice on Board’ session:
Do you and your crew practise regularly a MOB drill (‘man overboard’ drill)?
How often do you get your lifejackets checked and serviced?
What ‘calling for help’ devices do you carry and do all your crew know how to use them?
What spares do you carry to undertake basic repairs to your vessel?
What navigational aids do you carry?
Newcomer or Experienced boater?
Whether you are a newcomer or an experienced boater, our unique one-to-one service will give you an opportunity to ask those niggling questions on equipment or emergency procedures that you have always wanted to ask.
Is Advice on Board definitely FREE?
Absolutely, the RNLI believe that prevention is better than cure and we want make sure that everyone receives the right advice. So, the whole Advice on Board session including any phone calls or email is totally free!
Carrying a fully charged mobile phone in a waterproof case can most of the time be sufficient on inland coastal activity
Whatever coastal activity or water sport that you are taking part in it is vitally important to carry a means of calling for help incase you or one of your party gets into difficulty. This includes going for a walk with your lovely doggie or friends/family along the great coastline. Everything including sailing off-shore, kackaying, climbing, diving, swimming or motor boating to name a few. The ability to call for help quickly and get rescue services to you or the person/animal in difficulty can be the difference between living or dying.
If you do find yourself in difficulty, hear or see someone else or an animal in difficulty in the water or at the coast call ‘999’ or ‘112’ straight away and ask for the Coastguard. If you are inland at a river, loch, canal, reservoir or lake then ring ‘999’ or ‘112’ and ask for the Fire Service again straight away.
To assist you with some of the calling for help devices which are available we have included anumber below (Image credit: RNLI)
The RNLI advises :
Smart phones can provide a location, but emergency calls should be made by voice (call 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard). Text messages and map locations are often no use to the Coastguard.
Even if your phone shows no service, try calling 999 or 112 anyway as in an emergency your phone will be able to use another phone network. Please note that with some devices, repeatedly pressing the power button can activate an emergency call with your location.
The RYA SafeTrx ap is available to download for free for use in notifying a specified contact if you are overdue from your trip. The Coastguard can also monitor and be kept informed.
Personal Locator Beacon (PLB)
These have recently come right down in price and retail at around £175.00. They are now being used by all sorts of outdoor enthusiasts including walkers, climbers and mountain bikers. The PLB needs to be registered to you (shouldn’t be loaned to friends), they will operate world-wide and you can rely on the Coastguard on picking up the signal immediately and your GPS location given to lifeboat and coastguard teams. The PLB needs to be activated so the casualty will need to be conscious with the aerial pointing out of the water. One of our team carries one on his lifejacket permanently.
The VHF handheld VHF radio’s are now reasonable priced and available widely
The RNLI makes these points with regards VHF radio’s:
If possible, buy a DSC-equipped radio (some are not). A DSC distress alert is a recognised emergency signal, and it also transmits your location.
Send a distress alert followed by a mayday voice call on Channel 16. This communicates the distress message to all vessels and shore stations in range.
Requires an operator’s licence, a ship’s portable radio or ship’s radio licence (free in the UK if requested online) and a Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) number, which comes with the radio licence.
Ever wondered how the ‘999’ Emergency telephone system came about? Well it’s the 82nd anniversary of the World’s first emergency system, today Sunday 30th June. Here is a video illustrating the start of the service in 1937:
It first saw service in the London area. The system was introduced following a fire in a house in Wimpole Street on 10 November 1935, in which five women were tragically killed. A neighbour attempted to telephone the fire brigade and was so outraged at being held in a queue by the Welbeck telephone exchange that he wrote a letter to the Times Newspaper Editor, which prompted a government inquiry.
The initial scheme covered a twelve mile radius around Oxford Circus in London and the public were advised only to use it in ongoing emergency if “for instance, the man in the flat next to yours is murdering his wife or you have seen a heavily masked cat burglar peering round the stack pipe of the local bank building”. The first arrest for burglary took place a week later and the scheme was extended to major cities after World War II and then to the whole UK in 1976.
One of our key safety messages that we share when out and about is “do you know who to call in a coastal emergency?’ Over half the people we speak to unfortunately don’t know to call the Coastguard via ‘999’ if they hear or see a person or animal in danger at the coast. So, with the Summer already upon us and the increase in people visiting the coast we are asking everyone to dial ‘999’ straight away if they are in any doubt whatsoever that someone or an animal is in difficulty in the water at the coast.
On Friday morning (14th June) Margate Inshore Lifeboat was requested to launch by the UK Coastguard to a person reported in the water at Botany Bay, after entering to try and rescue their dog who had got into difficulty in the sea. The lifeboat launch was cancelled when the UK Coastguard received a further report that the person, along with a second person who also entered the water to assist together with the dog had made their way back to shore safely.
Members of the Thanet Community Safety Team using the ‘dog selfie’ frame at Dumpton Gap during a Coastal Dog Safety Pop-Up Stand
Friday’s call comes after another dog rescue near Minnis Bay on Thursday 6th June, when three friends rescued an 83-year old man who had jumped into the water to rescue his dog who unfortunately didn’t survive. Fortunately, the rescued man didn’t require hospital treatment but was treated at the scene by South East Coast Ambulance Service.
RNLI Lifeboat Dog rescue compilation video
Andy Mills, RNLI Community Safety Volunteer gives this advice “if your dog does get into difficulty in the water or has fallen down a cliff, please do not enter the water or put yourself in danger, dial ‘999’ or ‘112’ ask for the Coastguard straight away. They will then task the appropriate rescue assets such as a lifeboat, Coastguard Rescue Team who are trained in cliff, mud and water rescue; or a Coastguard helicopter. The Coastguard or RNLI will not charge you for using their services and they won’t mind if you have made the call in good faith.
Angling is a seriously popular activity, which is growing yearly. The RNLI estimate that around 1 million people participate in angling around the coast. Unfortunately, between 2011 and 2015, 50 anglers lost their lives whilst fishing around the UK coast*. Sadly, expert evidence suggests that many of those lives might have been saved if the anglers had been wearing lifejackets. You are four times more likely to survive if you are wearing a lifejacket (source Prof Mark Tipton University of Portsmouth)
Check out the video below to see what the the famous fishing guru Henry Gilbey found out about lifejackets when he visited the RNLI College at Poole.
Our top tips to follow when out angling at the coast:
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