On Monday evening (8th February 2021), our RNLI Community Safety Team continued Project Gnosis* and undertook a very interesting and informative on-line awareness session concerning open water swimming delivered by team member Dave Bennett who is also an RNLI lifeguard and Chairman of Broadstairs Surf Lifesaving Club.
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.
RNLI lifeboat stations, the RLSS (UK Royal Life Saving Society) and their affiliated lifesaving clubs, in common with many other charitable organisations, have cancelled their very popular festive swimming events due to COVID-19 safety considerations. Also taking into account the responsibility to ensure that blue light emergency services are not called out needlessly and the impact on the National Health Service is managed.
The RNLI and RLSS are urging anyone who does venture into the sea or other open water locations over the Christmas and New Year period to be aware of the risks and enjoy themselves as safely as possible.
The RNLI and HM Coastguard have both been busy responding to incidents involving swimmers this winter.
Earlier in December the Portishead lifeboat crew rescued a swimmer who had been in the sea for 80 minutes, while Sunderland lifeboat pulled another to safety after spotting him in the rough conditions thanks to his bright orange swimming cap and tow float.
Have Emergency call-outs to swimming related incidents increased?
HM Coastguard have reported a 79.8%* increase in emergency call-outs for swimming related incidents year-on-year between January and November, compared to the same period in 2019.
Lee Heard, RLSS UK – Director, said: ‘While festive dips are an increasingly popular tradition with brave bathers in plummeting temperatures, we are concerned that with the cancellation of well organised and lifeguarded events combined with a rise in open water swimming participation this year that individuals may still choose to dip this festive period.
‘We simply urge swimmers to stay safe, be prepared and consider their actions on our already stressed emergency services, including the RNLI’s volunteer lifeboat crews.’
Cold water shock is a very real danger for anyone entering water which is 15°C or below, with the average sea temperature around the UK and Ireland at this time of year just 6-10°C – which also poses a risk of hypothermia, even for the most experienced of open water swimmers.
RNLI Water Safety Partner Samantha Hughes said: ‘No one goes into the water in the expectation of needing to be rescued but we are asking anyone considering going for a festive dip to understand the dangers and not take unnecessary risks so they can have a good time, safely.
‘We recommend checking with your doctor before trying a cold water dip for the first time, especially if you have underlying health issues.
‘It is important to respect the water and there are a number of things you can do to help ensure you have an enjoyable and safe time such as not swimming alone, staying in your depth and knowing how to warm up properly afterwards which sounds obvious but is crucial to avoid any delayed effects of the cold and hypothermia.
‘The most important thing to remember is if you are in any doubt, stay out of the water and if you or anyone else does get into trouble in or on the water please call ‘999’ or ‘112’ immediately and ask for the Coastguard.’
What top safety tips should I follow if I intend going for a festive dip?
Should I wear a wetsuit? Yes, this will help increase your buoyancy and reduce the chances of suffering from cold water shock
Should I go with a friend? If at all possible, if you can’t go to a familiar bathing spot and tell someone when you plan to be back
What happens if I jump straight into the water? This could lead to cold water shock, walk in slowly. acclimatise slowly and wait until your breathing is under control before swimming
Should I wear a brightly coloured swim cap and consider using a tow float? Yes, always wear one that is brightly coloured and a tow float is highly recommended.
How deep should I go? Know your limits and don’t stay in the water for more than 10 minutes
I have heard of ‘float to live’ what does it mean? – If you get into trouble lean back in the water, extending your arms and legs, and resisting the urge to thrash around to gain control of your breathing. This is what the RNLI call ‘Float to Live’.
What number and who do I call if I get into difficulty or see someone else in trouble? Dial ‘999’ or ‘112’ immediately ask for the Coastguard giving as accurate location as possible
If I am in any doubt what should I do? There is always another day to go for a swim, if you have any doubts stay out of the water
Two of the Thanet RNLI Community Safety Team, Andy Mills and Ian Lockyer took part in the RNLI’s annual Winter fundraiser, the Reindeer run on Sunday 13th December. The pair together with Andy’s son, Ben and Thanet Roadrunners Jacquie Brazil, Ellis Johns and Eloise Kingett ran a 9-mile coastal route from Ramsgate RNLI station to Margate RNLI station taking in the customary hills and a strong wind which was fortunately behind the team for most of the distance.
The team who wore the obligatory antlers left Ramsgate station at 11.00am. They were given a fabulous send off from Eric Burton (Ramsgate Lifeboat Station Chairman), Sarah Hewes (RNLI Ramsgate Lifeboat Fundraising), Ray Noble (Ramsgate Lifeboat Fundraising) and John Litchfield (Kent Police PCSO – Ramsgate Harbour) despite the windy and wet conditions.
En route, they were met by their colleague on the Thanet Community Safety Team, John Homer and his wife Joan, who despite being blown away by the wind, gave the team plenty of encouragement.
Ian Lockyer, RNLI Community Safety Adviser said, “I wanted to take the team completely around the coast to highlight some of the challenges that the RNLI has to tackle including the numerous call-outs for cut-offs. By just being a little more prepared and taking into consideration the tide times walkers can avoid the embarrassment of getting the volunteer crews out”.
He added, “It was also important to show support to the volunteer boat crew that will be on call all through the Christmas period with the possibility of Christmas lunch being interrupted”.
“Lastly thanks to the team that ran this year and everyone who sponsored us….very much appreciated. Looking forward to doing this again in 2021, hopefully with a larger group”.
The third blog in our series ‘How well do you know your lifeboats’ focuses on Margate’s ‘D’ class Inshore Lifeboat (ILB). The ‘D’ class lifeboat has been a workhorse of the RNLI for over 50 years, which was first introduced in 1963 and has saved thousands of lives ever since. The design of the inflatable ‘D’ class lifeboat continues to evolve to meet the changes in operational demand and technology.
The ‘D’ class is a highly manoeuvrable craft and can operate closer to the shoreline than it’s all-weather lifeboat counter parts. The ‘D’ class definitely comes into her own for searches and rescues in surf, shallow water and confined area’s such as up close to cliffs, amongst rocks and even inside caves.
There are 110 lifeboat stations that currently have the very latest IB1 type ‘D’ class lifeboat. With a top speed of 25 knots, ‘D’ class lifeboats can endure up to 3 hours at sea at this speed on search and rescue taskings which is a critical factor when lives are at risk. Margate’s first ‘D’ class inshore boat came on service in 1966, with the latest D-841 Alfred Alexander Staden going on operational service on 5th October 2019.
Most ‘D’ class lifeboats are launched from a trolley with the assistance of a launch and recovery vehicle such as a tractor or landrover (Margate’s ILB is launched using a tractor). Some stations launch their ‘D’ class by lowering it into the sea using a davit system which is a shore-mounted crane.
Safety Kit Carried
The ‘D’ class lifeboat carries night vision equipment, a searchlight and parachute illuminating flares to light up a search area, helping to maintain crew safety as well as help locate those in need of help.
Medical equipment is stowed in a pod on the bow which includes oxygen, resuscitation kit, responder bag and ambulance pouch.
Crew: 2–3 (must include a Helmsmen)
Survivor capacity: 5
Maximum speed: 25 knots
Range / endurance: 3 hours at maximum speed
Beam / width: 2m
Draught / depth: 0.52m
Displacement / weight: 400kg
Fuel capacity: 68 litres
Engines: 1 x Mariner engine at 50hp
Construction: Hypalon-coated polyester
Identification All lifeboats have a unique identification number.
The first part indicates the class so ‘D’ class lifeboats start with D.
The numbers after the dash refer to the build number. So the first ‘D’ class built in the current IB1 design was given the number D-600.
Why not find out more about the RNLI’s inshore lifeboats by watching this video
While lifeboat stations remain operational and are continuing to launch to those at peril at sea, they are not currently open to visitors.
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