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.
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.
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.
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 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.
We hope that you are looking forward to making the most of that extra hour in bed after the clocks went back marking the end of BST (British Summer Time) and reverting to GMT (Greenwich Mean Time). Of course that extra hour in bed in the morning results in the evenings getting darker earlier.
Walking, running or cycling home in the dark after a night out or a long shift you may decide to take a short cut to get home quicker which takes you close to open water.
Make sure you take care when walking past open water as what appears to be straight forward in the light can be totally confusing in the dark. Walkers and runners have the highest incidence of accidental drowning year on year.
The RLSS (Royal Lifesaving Society) indicate that from 2012-2016, 300 people unnecessarily lost their lives to drowning in the UK whilst running or walking by the water – that’s an average of 60 lives lost per year. An additional 35 people per year drowned while walking home intoxicated. Thirty nine percent of those accidental drownings took place at the coast, twenty five percent at a river and eleven percent at a canal.
Here are some top tips to help keep you safe whilst out walking or running during the winter months:
Be aware of your surroundings and take notice of any warning signs when out and about
When running or walking next to open water, stay well clear of bank edges and keep to paths
Always try and walk or run with a friend
Let someone know where you are going and what time you will be back
Carry a means of ‘calling for help’ such as a fully charged mobile phone in a waterproof case.
If you are at the coast check out the tide times and weather before you head out of the door
If you hear or see an animal or person in difficulty in the water, don’t enter the water dial ‘999’ ask for the Coastguard at the coast or on the River Thames; and for all other inland waterways ask for the Fire Service
Avon Fire and Rescue Service have highlighted the Stay Safe Around Water message by using the social media #MatesMatter and encouraging the sports team mantra of looking after the team. Our advice is to always check your mates have got home safely by messaging or phoning them. Your phone call could just save their life.
John Homer RNLI Community Safety Adviser says “winter time is still a great time to visit the coast, we have 19 miles of coastline in Thanet to explore, but taking a few precautions can really help prevent putting yourself and others in danger. Stay safe”.
‘International Control Room Week’ is all about celebrating and thanking those people who are at the end of a ‘999’ call. From 19th to the 25th October 2020 the week is dedicated to celebrating the achievements of truly remarkable people who are at the end of the phone or radio when we need them, keeping us calm, reassuring us and updating us. They stay strong, supporting us through the most challenging times.
HM Coastguard Operation’s Centre’s around the UK are staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Ready to take ‘999’ emergency calls or Mayday radio calls from someone who needs help at the coast, on the River Thames or at sea urgently. There is no doubt it’s a highly challenging and demanding role.
Coastguard Operation’s room staff ensure that search and rescue assets such as coastguard rescue teams, helicopters, lifeboats and other blue light services are in the right place where they need to be, at the right time – helping and supporting as the emergency situation unfolds.
This year is even more important than in previous years as the men and women based in the Coastguard Operation’s Room’s have continued to provide emergency capability right through out lock-down and continue to do so through the Corona Virus emergency.
To mark the celebration, APD Communications have also pledged to donate £1 to Mind the mental health charity every time #UnsungHeroes is used across social media and in the press during the 19th -25th October 2020. Mental Health has such a huge impact on the emergency services. With over 9 in 10 workers experiencing low mood, poor mental health and stress at some point whilst working for the emergency services. The challenging nature of the job, with its unique pressures puts staff at greater risk.
Please spare a thought for all the staff deployed in all control rooms providing essential communication, support and assistance to members of the public in times of need. Just some of those control rooms include: Police, Fire and Rescue Service, Ambulance Service, Highways Agency, Maritime Control, Border Agency, Coastguard, RNLI, Prison Service, Public Utilities, Armed Forces, St John’s Ambulance, Red Cross to name a few.
Below is a short video clip showing how the HM Coastguard would take an emergency call and despatch search and rescue resources. As a reminder if you hear or see an animal or person in difficulty in the water at the coast dial ‘999’ or ‘112’ and ask for the Coastguard.
Regularly at events we are asked what is the best way to check the tide times? There are a variety of websites and smart device app’s available which are free to download and use to check the tides. Shops, cafe’s and other harbour/marina establishments regularly stock paper copies of tide tables which are available for a nominal fee or a donation to the local lifeboat station. A special mention should be made of ‘Spring Tides’ at this point in the blog. Spring Tides can result in people getting easily cut-off by the incoming tide including places where there normally isn’t an issue. For more information go to our blog on different tides.
Some lifeboat station’s also display the tide times on their external notice board’s. Many lifeboat station’s, Coastguard teams and National Coastwatch station’s publish tide times and safety advice on a regular basis on their social media channels. Both Ramsgate and Margate lifeboat station’s publish tide times.
We have included anumber of websites and ap’s below to give you an idea which ones are available.
You maybe visiting the coast to enjoy a lovely walk with your friends or family, partake in some bird watching, go climbing, kayaking, paddle boarding, sailing, swimming, surfing or just take in the sea from a cafe or coffee shop. Whatever activity you are taking part in why not remind yourself about some safety tips which could help save your life below:
Always carry a ‘calling for help device’ such as a fully charged mobile phone or VHF radio
If you are going out on your own tell someone where you are going and what time you will be back
Wear the right clothing for the activity. If you are enjoying time on the water always wear a fully serviced lifejacket.
Check the weather forecast
If you get into difficulty dial ‘999’ or ‘112’ and ask for the Coastguard
Don’t enter the water if you get cut-off by the tide, call for help
Heed any warning signs that are displayed at the coast or on beaches
Be aware of your surroundings at all times as conditions can change quickly without warning
If you end up in the water Float On Your Back until you get your breath back – Float To Live
Ian Lockyer (RNLI Community Safety Advisor) says “we want everyone to enjoy the coast and get as much out of your visit as possible. But, making a few preparations and having a plan should things go wrong will help save your life”.
How To Enjoy A Fabulous & Safe Time At The Coast This Summer – Our Ultimate Guide
Just recently we’ve been very fortunate to enjoy some really nice weather and higher temperatures. Hurrah I hear you say! This has resulted in large numbers of people flocking to the beach to soak up the sun and enjoy the seaside.
The RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution), along with the HM Coastguard and all the Volunteer Beach Wardens who are helping to keep our beaches safe during COVID-19 want everyone to have a fabulous time, but to take on board some simple safety advice which will enable you to enjoy a safe time too.
You may have read some of the media reports that the RNLI have rescued countless people on inflatables so far this year who have drifted out to sea. Two young people were safely rescued off Botany Bay, Broadstairs in July 2019. Our advice about taking inflatables to the coast is that they are meant for the pool and not the sea. If you do use them in the sea follow this advice:
Children should be supervised at all times by an adult
Inflatables should be kept close to the shoreline
Inflatables should only be used between the red and yellow flags on a lifeguarded beach
Never use an inflatable in big waves
Never use an inflatable when the orange windsock is flying as this indicates off-shore winds that will blow the inflatable out to sea
Always follow the advice of a lifeguard
Whenever you take to the sea we recommend that you and your children wear a suitable lifejacket or buoyancy aid. This will provide the necessary flotation should the inflatable suffer a puncture or similar
Float to Live
Enjoying a great swim in the sea is a fantastic way to relax and enjoy some exercise. However, if you do find yourself in difficulty or fall into the water unexpectedly remember to ‘Float to Live’ and watch this short video which could help save your life.
Cold Water Shock
Have you heard of ‘cold water shock’? This video will give you some lifesaving advice about ‘cold water shock’. Some tips to help you survive cold water shock include:
Take a minute. The initial effects of cold water pass in less than a minute so don’t try to swim straight away
Relax and float on your back to catch your breath. Try to get hold of something that will help you float
Keep calm then call for help or swim for safety if you’re able
Taking alittle time before you set up for the day to think about the five safety tips above will help you enjoy an enjoyable time. Lifeguards are frequently notified of missing children so having a plan incase a child goes missing is really worthwhile. Children’s waterproof wrist bands which carry their parents/guardians mobile telephone contact number are available from the Lifeguards at most beaches. Due to the COVID-19 situation the only beaches which are patrolled by RNLI lifeguards in Thanet are Viking Bay, Broadstairs and Margate Main Sands.
Knowing who to call in the event of hearing or seeing a person or animal in the water in difficulty or at the coast is so important. Over half the people we speak to during our events don’t know to dial ‘999’ or ‘112’ and ask for the Coastguard. Asking for another emergency service could waste vital minutes in getting specialist search and rescue teams; and the correct equipment to the scene quickly. More information on knowing who to call in a coastal emergency
Cut-Off by the tide
Around Thanet we are very lucky to have some beautiful coastline which is fabulous for walking and exploring. Similar to other parts of the UK, some of this coastline (Dumpton Gap, Stone Bay and environs, Botany Bay and Kingsgate Bay) gets cut-off by the in-coming tide and every year people have to be rescued by lifeguards and lifeboat crews. Getting cut-off by the tide is pretty easy to do unless you take some precautions:
John Homer one of our team’s most experienced Community Safety Advisors said “we hope everyone has an excellent time at the beach and the weather stays warm. Please take some time to think about the safety advice and have a plan if things go wrong. In 2019 two young people who were swept out to sea on an inflatable at Botany Bay knew how to ‘float to live’ definitely saved their lives”.
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