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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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!
Our team undertake lifejacket clinic’s at lifeboat station’s, yacht clubs and harbours from time to time and enjoy chatting to yachtsmen and women about all aspects of maritime safety. One question which crops up regularly relates to….. “what is the difference between a personal locator beacon and an automatic identification system”…… So, we have put together this blog to simply explain the differences.
Personal Locator Beacon (PLB)
A PLB is a manually activated device that’s transmit’s a radio signal on the 406 MHz frequency to specific Cospas-Sarsat (international, humanitarian search and rescue system) low-earth orbiting and GPS satellites which detect and locate aviators, mariner’s and land-based users such as climbers, hikers or mountain bikers in remote locations in distress. The satellites then relay information, via ground tracking stations and Mission Control Centre’s (MCC), and then onto a rescue co-ordination centre.
Where is the UK’s Mission Control Centre?
The designated UK Mission Control Centre (MCC) is the National Maritime Operation’s Centre (NMOC) based at Fareham in Hampshire. Wherever in the world a UK registered PLB is activated, the Mission Control Centre in the respective country which it is operated will then pass the details to the NMOC for further action and investigation. This may involve the NMOC tasking search and rescue assets eg lifeboat, helicopter, Coastguard Rescue Team etc to the last location transmitted if in the UK.
How do PLB’s work?
Most PLB’s are also equipped with GPS receivers, thus being able to calculate and send an accurate location embedded within the beacon’s 406 MHz message. Other PLB’s without GPS rely solely upon the less accurate Doppler principle to establish the beacon’s position. The beacon also transmits a homing signal on VHF, to which Search and Rescue helicopters; and lifeboats can home in on.
The signal transmitted by the distress radio beacon includes a digital message which allows the transmission of encoded data such as the unique identifier for the beacon that transmitted the alert and if the beacon has an integral GPS, the beacon’s position. Otherwise the beacon’s signal may need to be detected by two or three satellites before its position can be sufficiently estimated, therefore it may take longer for Search and Rescue assets to locate the PLB and it’s owner.
Return Link Service PLB’s
Return Link Service PLB’s are being activated during 2020, which is a re-assurance signal back to a new generation of SAR beacons to inform the user that their distress signal and location have been detected. This new capability is unique to the Galileo satellites. A detailed blog explaining this new concept will be posted soon.
What happens when you have purchased a PLB?
Once a PLB unit is purchased, there are no subscription fees and the battery should last, if not used, for 5-6 years. You must register the PLB with the Marine Coastguard Agency and maintain accurate registration details, including the 24-hour Emergency Point of Contact details. UK Beacon Registry contact details: email@example.com Tel: 01326 211569
PLB’s are Global Maritime Distress Safety System (GMDSS) approved. The Global Maritime Distress and Safety System is the technical, operational and administrative structure for maritime distress and safety communications worldwide.
How does the Automatic Identification System (AIS) work?
Automatic Identification System (AIS) Man-overboard (MOB) is a personal locator device that works electronically exchanging data with multiple ships and base station’s via VHF. It is not GMDSS approved or monitored in the UK by the HM Coastguard. It is also limited in range (around 5 miles in open water). An AIS MOB device can be rigged into a lifejacket to activate automically with the inflation of a lifejacket.
AIS is also a requirement for larger pleasure vessels on some European inland waterways. This varies by country and regionally by waterway.
A big ‘Thank You’ to all our lovely followers and the fantastic people out there that help share our blogs on social media. This is hugely appreciated by our team and is essential to helping to get the drowning prevention and water safety messages out to as a wider audience as possible so that we can help prevent drownings and incidents at the coast.
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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