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.
Open Water Swimming in lakes, rivers and at the coast has really taken off in the last few years (particularly during the last year and in lockdown) and it is one of the largest growing sports in the UK. Swimmers tell us that it can significantly boost their mental wellbeing, fitness levels, mood, it’s highly invigorating, improves circulation and immune systems.
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.
Dodging waves during sunny and calm weather can be great fun. However, on a stormy day just 15cm of water can knock you off your feet quite easily. What seems like fabulous fun to dodge waves that crash over harbour walls or onto a beach can easily lead to disaster during stormy weather conditions.
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)?
Lifejackets are an essential piece of safety kit whilst out on the water whatever activity you are taking part in. Whatever the weather or sea conditions our advice is always to wear a lifejacket or personal floatation device (PFD). Lifejackets are useless stored away in a bag, they need to be worn.
Angling is one of the most popular hobbies and sports enjoyed by a wide cross section of the community and at all age ranges. Between 2011-2015, 50 anglers tragically lost their lives while fishing around the UK coastline*.
Sadly, expert evidence from Professor Mike Tipton of Portsmouth University (2012) suggests that many of those lives might have been saved if the anglers had been wearing lifejackets.
If you are ill prepared and don’t know what to do things if things go wrong a nice day out can very easily turn into a nightmare. Colm Plunkett was wearing a lifejacket and had a plan when he got into difficulty whilst out angling. Check out the video below:
Here is some top safety tips to help you keep safe:
Should I let someone know where I am going and what time I will be back? Always let someone know where you will be fishing and what time you will be back. This will assist search and rescue teams with an area to start searching should you not return on time.
2. Carry a calling for help device such as a VHF radio or mobile phone in a waterproof case so that you can call for help if you get into difficulty.
3. Always wear a lifejacket no matter what type of weather/conditions or locations you are angling from. If you end up in the water and you are wearing a lifejacket, you are four times more likely to survive (Professor Mike Tipton Portsmouth University) More information on which lifejacket to wear – RNLI
5. What is ‘Float to Live’ – If you end up in the water, the RNLI recommend that you float on your back until you get your breath back. More information on Float to Live
6. Who Do I call in a coastal emergency at the coast? If you see an animal or person who you think is in difficulty in the water or at the coast phone ‘999’ or ‘112’ straightaway and ask for the Coastguard. Getting the right equipment and the correct rescue teams mobilised to the scene will have a significant impact on the outcome of the incident.
7. What is SafeTrx? Many anglers, divers, kayakers, open water swimmers and sailors are downloading the free SafeTrx mobile phone app which charts your passage and alerts an emergency contact if you fail to report in at an allocated time. Open water swimmers and divers are registering themselves as the ‘craft’ and will also notify the HM Coasguard if someone is late reporting in.
8. What clothing and kit should I pack for a fishing trip. Wearing a lifejacket will improve your chances by up four times if you end up in the water. Wearing crotch straps will also have a significant impact on the effectiveness of your lifejacket if you end up in the water. Why not check out the Henry Gilbey video below:
9. Is it better to take a mate along when I go fishing? There is always someone to share those great angling stories with over a cuppa or a bite to eat afterwards. Having a mate with you also ensures that there is someone to call for help if you get into difficulty.
10. Should I check tides and weather before I go fishing. It may seem obvious to check the tide times and weather forecast, but a recent lifeboat launch rescued two anglers who had been caught out by the tide. There are plenty of mobile device app’s which are free to download and use to show tide times and weather forecasts.
11. I have heard of Personal Locator Beacons, but what do they do? A PLB will increase the chances of search and rescue teams locating you quickly if you end up in the water in difficulty. There are plenty of examples of where sailors, kayakers and fishermen who have ended up in the water and have activated their PLB which has saved their life. They need to be registered with your details with the HM Coastguard.
12. What COVID-19 Safety Precautions should I take when I go fishing?
Drop us a DM on Facebook or Instagram if you would like your lifejackets checked for free or an ‘Advice on Board’ session (free check of your boat or craft to help you with safety). Please be aware that due to COVID-19 safety protocols we have had to suspend our lifejacket and Advice on Board sessions until further notice. However, we are happy to provide one-to-one advice over a virtual conference call.
*RNLI analysis of WAID UK fatalities accidental and natural causes only 2011-15 coastal data set
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”….
Our team is often asked what’s the difference between the Coastguard and the RNLI? Her Majesty’s Coastguard (HMCG) – commonly known as the Coastguard – is part of the UK Government’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and are in charge of all maritime and rescue operation’s in the UK.
The Irish Coastguard (IRCG) covers the Republic of Ireland. When you dial ‘999’ or ‘112’ or make an emergency call from a VHF radio and ask for the Coastguard you will be put through to one of the operations centres which are dotted across the UK. They will co-ordinate the response and task the appropriate assets such as lifeboats, Coastguard Rescue Team’s, helicopter and or other blue light services Police, Fire and Rescue; or Ambulance.
Coastguard’s in the operation’s centre can call upon Coastguard Rescue Team’s which are made up of volunteers based all around the coast, who are ready to respond 365 days a year. The teams are highly trained with a specialist skillset in water, mud and cliff rescue; advanced first aid and now trained to search for high risk vulnerable missing persons.
The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is an independent UK and Republic of Ireland charity. It’s a 24/7 volunteer lifeboat service that is a declared asset of the Coastguard to be tasked to an incident. The RNLI is a registered charity that has been saving lives at sea since 1824. It provides an on-call 24 hour lifeboat search and rescue service and a lifeguard service (available during the Summer months) along with a flood rescue capability.
Knowing what to do in the event of seeing someone in difficulty in the water could help save someone’s life. The majority of people will not just stand and watch someone in difficulty in the water. However, if your instinct is to jump in and attempt a rescue this could cost you your life. On a lifeguarded beach the best action is to alert the lifeguards straight away. But, what happen’s if the incident is out of season when the beach doesn’t have lifeguards on duty or you are on holiday and you spot someone who is in difficulty in the water?
During August 2019 a gentlemen very tragically lost his life in Porthmadog, North Wales after entering the water to try and save the life of his children. I am sure you will agree that we all admire the selflessness that drives people to risk their own lives to help others, however, the RNLI’s message is clear “Call for help rather than endanger your own life and the lives of others”.
Mike Dunn, Deputy Director of Education and Research at RLSS UK has provided the following guide
Call the emergency services before you do anything else, so help will be on its way.
Or ask someone else to call while you try to help the casualty. If you’re alone without a phone, find someone who can call for help. Give the following information to the Coastguard Operator if at the coast. Ask for the Fire Service if inland:
Give your location.
Describe the problem.
Tell them the number of people in danger.
Give any additional information that may be useful such as any access issues or hazards.
4. Shout and Signal
From the shore you have a better view of the area than the casualty. Shout and encourage them to stay calm and float. Remind them to kick their legs gently. Once they’ve caught their breath they may be able to reach a lifering in the water, a jetty, or a shallower area of water.
Some parts of the country have rescue boards (pictured above) which contain rescue equipment either a throw bag or a reach pole secured by a digital combination lock. To access this equipment dial ‘999’ ask for the Coastguard at the coast or on the River Thames. For inland water ways (canals, rivers, lakes, loch’s, pools) ask for the Fire Service quoting the identifying number on the rescue board which will allow you access to the emergency equipment.
If there is no public rescue aid equipment, throw anything that will float.
6. Safe Rescue
Before you pull the casualty in, get down on one knee or lie down so you don’t fall in.
Remember, even if your rescue attempts fail, emergency services are on their way. Keep sight of the casualty to help the emergency services locate them quicker.
We are aware sky lanterns (sometimes referred to as Chinese lanterns which are often used in birthday and weddings celebrations) are being advertised as an alternative to attending the traditional bonfire night gatherings/parties due to COVID-19 government lockdown restrictions. The sky lanterns are often set off on or close to bonfire night 5th November.
What are Sky Lanterns and why are they hazardous to animals
The paper lanterns are small hot air balloons, powered by a flame suspended on a wire frame which represents a significant fire risk to life, property, birds, livestock and agriculture when they come down to earth so should never be used.
Cause of fires
In 2013 CCTV footage proved a sky lantern to be the cause of a fire at a recycling plant in the West Midlands. More than 200 firefighters and 39 fire appliances were deployed over several days to tackle the blaze involving plastics and paper.
Unnecessary Calls-Out’s for Lifeboat Crews and Coastguard Teams
Near the coast they may also be mistaken for distress flares causing unnecessary searches by our lifeboat and coastguard team colleagues. However, both search and rescue organisations are still ready to respond to genuine incidents, but do not need unavoidable calls putting their own and other lives at risk at this time. Remember: What goes up must come down. If you do plan on releasing these lanterns near the coast, let the Coastguard know when and where. As an alternative you could consider purchasing:
stationary candles and nightlights
static lanterns or outdoor lights
or planting a tree in memory of a loved one
Flares are a critical piece of sea safety kit, it is illegal to fire them in non-distress situation. Every year lifeboat crews and Coastguard Rescue Teams are called out to the sighting of flares out at sea or coast. Flares are designed to be fired over water. If fired over land they can cause serious fires. Bonfire Night can be a big night for unnecessary call-outs. Flares and lanterns are easily mistaken for distress signals and each sighting of a flare or lantern has to be investigated fully. This could divert search and rescue assets (lifeboats and Coastguard Rescue Teams) away from genuine emergency situation and can mean an exhaustive search in challenging conditions putting volunteers at further risk.
Thank you for reading, and from all of our team take care and stay safe!
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