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.
The Isle of Thanet coast has some of the most beautiful beaches and coastline in the UK which draws visitors at all times of the year (nineteen miles of coastline in fact). Exploring the coastline on foot is an excellent way of enjoying valuable time with family and friends, whilst grabbing fresh air, exercise and at the same time relaxing. Holiday times are great occasions to get out and enjoy 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.
If you live close to the coast and are an avid follower of local coastal interest pages on social media you will may have seen the images and video’s showing the recent cliff collapses around the country. Very sadly, a cliff collapse in February caused the death of a dog in the west country.
Tidal cut off is a significant cause of call outs for RNLI lifeboats and also to Coastguard Rescue Teams throughout the year. People are often unaware that they are in potential danger and are ill prepared.
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.
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
Whilst chatting at one of our team’s highly popular Coastal Dog Safety stands a dog owner asked us…”If I don’t have a mobile phone signal how can I call the Coastguard on the beach?” Your mobile can use any provider’s network for emergency calls to ‘999’ or ‘112’.
Some parts of the UK coastline and beaches do suffer from poor mobile phone reception. I noticed on one occasion trying to get a phone signal near impossible on Dumpton Gap in Thanet. However, changing position and moving up to the top of the cliff worked for the EE network when I needed to call the Coastguard via ‘999’ as a person had been cut-off by the tide.
We would always encourage people who take part in water activities such as kayaking, paddle boarding, canoeing, off-shore fishing or sailing to invest in a VHF radio and enrol on an RYA radio course. For coastal walking and most beach related activities a fully charged mobile phone in a waterproof case will be sufficient.
One of our Coastal Dog Safety events
Some phone’s will tell you this with ‘Emergency Calls Only’ on the screen. Even if the phone has no credit it will call. If you’re struggling to make a call in an emergency it’s worth trying the phone on the other side of your head as this maybe enough to block the signal.
How to call for help using your mobile phone
You can also try sending a text to ‘999’ (if pre-registered) if the phone signal is weak as a text may get through.
Here’s how to pre-register your mobile phone so that you can send an SMS to the emergency services
Send the word ‘register’ in an SMS message to ‘999’
You will then receive an SMS message about the service
When you have read these SMS messages reply by sending ‘yes’ in an SMS message to 999
You will receive a message telling you that your mobile phone is registered or if there is a problem about your registration
Your phone MUST BE registered before you use this service
Be aware that the text service may take longer than a normal ‘999’ call and it should only be used as a last resort – for example if calling ‘999’ and talking loud would put you in further danger or there is no mobile phone signal whatsoever
The SMS to ‘999’ must include which emergency service you need, a brief description of the emergency and your location (including any landmarks). An example of a good text “Coastguard required, one male in difficulty in the water Ramsgate main beach close to Wetherspoons. Ramsgate”.
Once you have sent a text you will receive a response which will ask for further detail, or indicate that help is en route.
Do not assume your message has been sent unless you receive a reply back sometimes this could take up to 2 minutes. If you do not receive any response try asking someone to call the emergency services.
Why not check out the RNLI mobile phone ‘calling for help’ leaflet below.
Carrying a ‘calling for help’ device such as a mobile phone is essential for taking part in any beach or coastal related activity. Knowing to call the Coastguard via ‘999’ or ‘112’ if you hear or see an animal or person in difficulty in the water straight away providing an accurate location is also essential knowledge if the correctly trained personnel and equipment can be sent to the scene as quickly as possible. Stay safe!
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.
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.
Thanet’s RNLI Community Safety Team are making waves with this year’s Royal Lifesaving Societies Drowning Prevention Week campaign
The Thanet RNLI Community Safety Team will be taking part in a UK and Ireland-wide effort, when it takes part in Drowning Prevention Week 2020, in a bid to help families stay water-safe during and after lockdown.
Due to the ongoing impact of COVID-19, we now know that the usual level of service provided by rescue and lifeguard services are not going to be possible in 2020. Personal water safety is more important than ever before, to save lives.
The Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK), fears that families will flock to beaches and inland water locations this summer, without considering the potential dangers, putting themselves and others at risk.
In a bid to ensure families in Thanet and visitors to the area know how to keep themselves and others safe our team will be supporting RLSS UK’s annual Drowning Prevention Week campaign, this year running from 12-19 June.
RLSS UK launched the campaign seven years ago as a way of focusing the UK’s attention on the importance of water safety, during one focal week of activities. A wide range of free, downloadable resources have been produced to help supporters promote water safety through schools, leisure centres, swimming clubs, community ventures and businesses.
The Charity hopes that through the campaign, the UK and Ireland will see a reduction in the statistics that see approximately 700 people losing their lives to drowning every year – that’s one every 12 hours. Many more suffer injury, sometimes lifechanging, following a water related incident.
Our team is proud to play its part in trying to reduce this figure, and ensuring there isn’t a rise in fatalities because of the current situation. Our team will be sharing images and content via their social media platforms throughout the campaign week.
Andy Mills (Thanet RNLI Community Safety) said: “It is so important to remind people to stay safe and take personal responsibility near water, especially during these unprecedent times. We are only too happy to be involved with the RLSS’ Drowning Prevention Week.
“Most people are surprised to learn that you are more likely to die from drowning in the UK, than you are from being hit by a car or in a domestic fire. We urge as many people as possible to take advantage of our on-line material and learn what could be potentially lifesaving skills”.
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