We have seen Kayaking grow in popularity, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, either out at the coast or on our fabulous inland water ways. There is nothing like getting out on the water in a kayak and it is absolutely great fun.
Getting out in the fresh air either enjoying a leisurely stroll, a longer hike or maybe a run is a fantastic way to get some exercise particularly during the lockdown period, to improve your mindfulness and spend time with friends or family. This blog is designed to raise awareness that 93 people who accidentally drowned during 2018 weren’t even taking part in water-based activity and were simply running or walking near water (this is the largest grouping of people who lost their lives).
With an increase in the number of people pulling on their trainers or walking boots for their unlimited daily exercise in England by themselves or with one other person, the RNLI are urging people to heed the advice if anyone who finds themselves unexpectedly in cold water to ‘float to live’. Getting out into the fresh air for a walk or run is an excellent way of grabbing some exercise and or valuable ‘headspace’ time away from work or the stresses and strains of modern everyday life. But, knowing what to do should you get into difficulty in water is essential.
A recent incident near Blackburn involving a runner who accidentally fell into a canal who helped to save her own life by using the ‘Float to Live’ safety drill enforces the RNLI’s water safety campaign ‘Respect the Water’ very effectively. Fortunately, the Aggie the runner who knew the route well escaped unhurt and without the need for hospitalisation. You can view the interview below which Aggie gave to the RNLI below explaining how she remembered the ‘Float to Live’ principle after seeing it advertised on television.
Chris Cousens, one of the RNLI’s Water Safety Lead’s, said “annual coastal fatality figures reveal over half (55%) of those who died at the coast in 2018 ended up in the water unexpectedly – a figure that has remained consistent in recent years. Chris says:
‘Aggie’s story really does prove the charity’s Float to Live advice is just as relevant inland as it is on the coast. Coastal fatality figures sadly show that many of those who lose their lives did not plan on entering the water.
Slips, trips and falls can catch people unaware while out running or walking. Knowing what to do if you fall into cold water, whether inland or at the coast, can be the difference between life and death.
‘The instinctive human reaction when you fall into cold water can cause panic and gasping for breath, increasing the chances of breathing in water. Although it’s counter intuitive, the best immediate course of action is to fight your instinct and float on your back. More tragic water-related deaths can be avoided by knowing the risks and remembering the Float technique, just as Aggie did.
Coastal and Inland Water ways
Float to Live is something that you can use equally at the coast, as you can in a river, canal, loch, quarry or lake. The short video above will demonstrate how to conduct ‘Float to Live’.
Water Safety Reminders
Here is a reminder if you are setting out for a lovely walk or run or any other outdoor activity which is close to water:
Check the weather and tides
Carry a ‘calling for help’ device such as a fully charged mobile phone in a waterproof case
Tell someone where you are going and what time you will be back
Wear the right clothing/equipment for the activity
Read and take heed of any warning signage at the entrance to beaches
Be aware of your surroundings at all times
Be aware of slips and trips, keeping to recognised coastal paths
Don’t enter the water should you get cut off by the tide, shout for help
If you do unexpectedly find yourself in the water float on your back until you get your breath
If you see an animal or person in difficulty in the water dial ‘999’ at the coast or on the River Thames and ask for the Coastguard or if inland the Fire Service giving an accurate location
If you are a sailor, yachtsmen or other water sport enthusiast who has purchased flares or pyrotechnics, you will have asked …..”how should I dispose of flares or time expired pyrotechnics (TEP’s) safely”.
The advice is to firstly contact your supplier where you purchased the flares from and enquire whether they offer a ‘take back facility’ which may incur a small charge. Alternatively, speak with a life-raft maintenance centre or enquire with your council recycling centre.
If the flares are still unable to disposed of safely then you are recommended to contact your nearest Coastguard licensed site. Please bear in mind that due to current COVID-19 safety protocols being operated by the HM Coastguard it may not be possible to dispose of them via this route at this time.
The nearest CGOC (Coastguard Operations Centre) for East Kent is based at Dover and can be contacted on 01304 210 008.
Other licensed coastguard disposal locations are as follows:
National Maritime operations centre (licensed site Daedalus training centre) Tel 02392 552 100.
CGOC Stornoway Tel: 01851 702 013.
London Coastguard operations base Tel: 02083 127 380
RNLI headquarters Poole Tel: 01202 336 336.
(Reference : Maritime Coastguard Agency website)
The HM Coastguard have no responsibility for flare disposal and will only accept a small number at their discretion from private indviduals and small independent fishing vessels.
On contacting the relevant CGOC they will ask the following questions:
Who you have previously contacted to arrange disposal
How many flares you need to dispose
How old are the flares
What condition are the flares in
If the CGOC can help, they will arrange for a time for you to deliver the flares to an appropriate base/location where staff will be able to accept them safely
You may be asked to travel a significant distance to attend a disposal site and wait several weeks
It is worthy to note not to turn up without an appointment at a HM Coastguard premises as you are likely to be turned away (not all premises are staffed 24/7) flares can’t be accepted from a business organisation.
Flares are highly dangerous
DO NOT dump carrier bags of flares on the doorstep of Coastguard Station’s, Coastguard Rescue Equipment Stores, Fire Stations, Police buildings or Lifeboat Station’s. Many of these locations maybe unstaffed and the dumping of potentially dangerous flares is a safety hazard and against the law. Irresponsibly discarded flares may be picked up by children who could be seriously injured or killed by an abandoned pyrotechnic. In one incident a military Explosive Ordnance Disposal team had to be called out to a device which had been left outside a Coastguard station which also put the Coastguard team unavailable for emergency calls.
Do not put flares in household rubbish, garden waste or public litter bins. They can cause extensive damage to refuse collection facilities and may injure persons who come into contact with them. An incident involving a worker at a recycling centre found out to his cost.
As a reminder
It is illegal to fire flares on land or in a harbour; fire flares at sea for testing, practice or as fireworks
Damaged or out of date flares should never be used.
It is illegal to dump pyrotechnics at sea.
Every year lifeboat crews and Coastguard Rescue Teams are called out to the sighting of flares out at sea. Whilst personnel from both organisations will never complain about being called out to an emergency or what looks to be someone in need of help, in whatever weather and at any time of the day or night they urge people not to let off flares at sea unless it is a genuine emergency.
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