You will have no doubt be aware of the the governments recent announcement of their roadmap for the easing of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown restrictions across England and the respective government announcements for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.
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.
Our Coastguard colleagues have in the past carried out a public survey and they report that half of the people they questioned did not know that they should dial ‘999’ and ask for the Coastguard for a coastal emergency. Here are just some of the incidents which the Coastguard should get called to (The list is not exhaustive):
▪️Person in the water
▪️Someone shouting/waving for help from a boat,
▪️Someone stuck on/fallen from a Coastal cliff,
▪️Someone stuck in Coastal mud or quicksand,
▪️Boat sinking or on fire
▪️Persons floating out to sea on a lilo
▪️Distress flare sighted
▪️Persons jumping from quay walls and putting themselves in danger
▪️Persons “Wave Dodging” and putting themselves in danger
▪️Someone gone kayaking at the Coast and not back at the time they said they would be
▪️Someone injured on a beach
▪️Someone cut off by the tide
▪️Child(ren) lost on the beach
▪️Marine Pyrotechnics (flares) or suspected Military Ordnance found on a beach
Here is the procedure in the event of spotting a coastal emergency:
1.Dial ‘999’ or ‘112’ (European Emergency Number) and ask for the Coastguard
2.Describe your location, if you don’t know exactly where you are use a clear description, landmarks or try and find someone who knows the area. On some smart phones the compass app will also display the position as latitude and longitude. Alternatively, use an app such as OS locate or What3words
3. Describe the number of people, animal and or craft that is involved
4. Describe the problem = what you can see and or hear
5. Give any further information such as closet access point for emergency services and any further updates on injuries to casualties
Did you know that our team of RNLI Community Safety volunteers can carry out Advice on Board safety advice sessions with you. We will visit you and provide you with practical suggestions on how to improve the safety on your boat and it’s equipment.
When and where will the advice sessions take place?
The session is specifically tailored around your availability and the location to suit you. It is not like an MoT for a car, but a friendly chat where we can help with suggestions on how to improve safety for you and your crew. We will provide you with a summary of the main points covered to take away with you at the end of the session.
Do the advice sessions cost anything?
The sessions are totally free of charge.
Are the RNLI Community Safety Team qualified to undertake these sessions?
All the team that conduct the Advice on Board sessions have attended a course run by the RNLI to qualify them to carry out the checks. They also attend refresher sessions to keep their knowledge up-to-date.
Can the advice session include checking my lifejackets too?
Yes, we can check your lifejackets as well, we also recommend getting them regularly serviced and by a service agent or local chandlers who may have the facility to send off jackets to a manufacturers.
I have a VHF handheld radio and I am unsure whether it is still ok to use, can you check the radio?
Our team are not qualified to service or check VHF handheld or base station radio’s. We would recommend contacting a local dealer or manufacturer for more advice.
How can I book an Advice on Board session with my local Community Safety Team?
If you have your boat is moored at Ramsgate Harbour please send our team a direct message on either our Facebook or Instagram page and we will reply asap. If you live in another area then you can contact RNLI HQ at Poole by going to this link
What happens during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Our team are permitted to carry out some RNLI Community Safety work using social distancing. If you would prefer to wait until 2021 then you can still register your interest in having an advice session carried out in the future.
I would like some advice on my engine. Can you help me with this?
Mechanical failure is the single biggest cause of rescue call outs to sailing and motor cruisers, accounting for nearly 20% of all our lifeboat launches. Knowing your boat, carrying spares and being able to fit them could make the difference between having to call for help and being able to help yourself. Our team are not qualified to check over engines. Our advice is to get your engine checked out by a qualified engineer.
Are you able to take time expired pyrotechnic’s (TEP’s) from me?
We are not permitted to take TEP’s from any members of the public due to the risk involved. Please contact your supplier where you purchased the flares from initially and ask whether they operate a ‘take back facility’. Alternatively, speak with a life raft manufacturer or council recycling centre. Our blog on how to dispose of out of date flares may provide some useful reading.
What happens if I have some more questions?
If you have any questions on Advice on Board sessions or any aspect of safety on your boat then please do not hesitate in dropping us a private message on our social media pages. Thank you for reading and stay safe.
In the UK there isn’t a legal requirement for leisure boaters wear a lifejacket. However, in Ireland the law requires that appropriate personal floatation devices (PFD’s) are carried on all leisure craft for each member of the crew/passengers; when a vessel is under 7 metres PFD’s must be worn; and people under 16 years of age must wear a PFD’s when on an open vessel or on deck, no matter what size the vessel is. As of 2019, the law states that it is mandatory for all UK and Irish commercial fishermen to wear a PFD on an open deck (unless there is a risk assessment in force that shows they cannot fall overboard).
Our team run lifejacket clinic’s from time to time at yacht clubs, lifeboat stations and harbours. If you are interested in getting your lifejacket checked by a qualified member of our team please drop us an email: Andrew_Mills@RNLI.org.uk (Please note: An inspection by an RNLI Community Safety Adviser is not the equivalent of a lifejacket service. Lifejackets should be serviced by an approved service agent).
I am sure that you will agree that there is nothing quite like white sails billowing against a lovely blue sky, the breeze and spray on your face. It can be exciting, challenging and relaxing. Although, no matter where or what type of boat you sail there is one factor that you must take into account before embarking on a voyage SAFETY. In this blog we will consider 7 Safety Tips which will help you minimise the hazards enabling you, your crew and passengers to have a fabulous, but safe time on the water.
You may have read our previous blogs or social media postings about the critical importance of wearing a correctly fitted and maintained lifejacket or personal floation aid (PFD). When out on the water boating or sailing whatever the weather our advice is always to wear a lifejacket and that goes for each member of your crew and passengers. Why not check out the excellent RNLI video below which explores how to fit a buoyancy aid correctly.
As well as wearing a fully serviced lifejacket we also highly recommend wearing crotch straps. If you are uncertain why you should wear them check out the video below:
Lifeboat crews are often called out to sailors in difficulty who have over estimated their skill and knowledge level. Be totally honest with yourself about your skill level. If you are in any doubt why not enrol onto an RYA course. Courses can help you prepare for anything, whether your a complete novice, living onboard, enjoying a coastal cruising or venturing further offshore.
3. Check Your Engine
Nearly 20% of all Lifeboat call-outs are to sailing and motor cruisers suffering from mechanical failure. Having a good knowledge of your boat’s engine, carrying spares and being able to fit them could make the difference between having to call for help and being able to help yourself. The RYA run disel engine courses which are highly popular. The RNLI produces some free downloadable resources to help you with engine maintenance.
On 2nd May 2015, 14-year-old Emily Gardner tragically drowned in a boating accident. An ill-fitting buoyancy aid snagged on the cleat of a capsized speedboat. In her memory, her family helped draw up the following mnemonic to highlight key safety messages and they provide a great rule of thumb for any sailor to follow:
5. Check the weather & conditions
The weather can make or break your day. Regularly checking the weather forecast and sea conditions can help you if you planning a lengthy voyage. Downloading the SafeTrx App provides key Inshore waters weather forecasts, as well as tracking your trip and alerting your emergency contact if you are overdue.
6. Calling for Help
Life-threatening incidents can occur at any time without warning and in any weather! Having a means of ‘calling for help’ and that everyone on your crew/passengers knows how to use them will enable you to get help to you should an incident occur as quickly as possible. Incidents can go unnoticed even in busy waters close to the coastline.
There is a range of different devices for ‘calling for help‘ on the market. Whichever one you choose and we recommend you use more than one – you must be able to reach it easily in an emergency. Don’t rely on a single method of calling for help as one may not work. We have included a range of ‘calling for help’ devices below:
7. Advice on Board (AOB)
Advice Onboard is a totally free of charge service that’s suitable for anyone who goes to sea on a pleasure vessel of less than 13.7m. It’s available in all parts of the UK and Ireland. It’s tailored to your particular vessel and the type of boating you do.
Whether you are highly experienced or a complete novice sailor or boater you’ll benefit from this free and friendly service. The safety advice session takes place onboard your vessel at a time that’s convenient for you.
This service is provided by experienced and highly trained RNLI volunteers and will provide you with independent advice about your boat’s safety equipment. You’ll also have an opportunity to ask any of those burning questions about safety drills, equipment or emergency procedures that you may have put off asking for some time.
We hope that you have enjoyed this blog. If you would like to book an Advice on Board session or lifejacket check/clinic with our team you can get in touch by emailing Andrew_Mills@RNLI.org.uk
SAFETY CHECK LIST
Always wear a properly serviced and fitting lifejacket or personal floatation device
Always carry a means of calling for help eg VHF radio, Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), flares, EIRB, mobile phone with SafeTrx app
Have an emergency action plan and make sure everyone aboard receives a detailed briefing (covering the location and use of the safety equipment, including the spare kill cord for powerboats. Practising ‘man overboard’ drills is very important).
Arrange to attend some training from an approved training provider
Always check the weather and tide times before you embark on your voyage
Tell someone ashore your voyage plan and who to call if you don’t return on time
Always drive your boat at a speed that is appropriate to the weather conditions and to the environment you are operating in
Carrying a fully charged mobile phone in a waterproof case can most of the time be sufficient on inland coastal activity
Whatever coastal activity or water sport that you are taking part in it is vitally important to carry a means of calling for help incase you or one of your party gets into difficulty. This includes going for a walk with your lovely doggie or friends/family along the great coastline. Everything including sailing off-shore, kackaying, climbing, diving, swimming or motor boating to name a few. The ability to call for help quickly and get rescue services to you or the person/animal in difficulty can be the difference between living or dying.
If you do find yourself in difficulty, hear or see someone else or an animal in difficulty in the water or at the coast call ‘999’ or ‘112’ straight away and ask for the Coastguard. If you are inland at a river, loch, canal, reservoir or lake then ring ‘999’ or ‘112’ and ask for the Fire Service again straight away.
To assist you with some of the calling for help devices which are available we have included anumber below (Image credit: RNLI)
The RNLI advises :
Smart phones can provide a location, but emergency calls should be made by voice (call 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard). Text messages and map locations are often no use to the Coastguard.
Even if your phone shows no service, try calling 999 or 112 anyway as in an emergency your phone will be able to use another phone network. Please note that with some devices, repeatedly pressing the power button can activate an emergency call with your location.
The RYA SafeTrx ap is available to download for free for use in notifying a specified contact if you are overdue from your trip. The Coastguard can also monitor and be kept informed.
Personal Locator Beacon (PLB)
These have recently come right down in price and retail at around £175.00. They are now being used by all sorts of outdoor enthusiasts including walkers, climbers and mountain bikers. The PLB needs to be registered to you (shouldn’t be loaned to friends), they will operate world-wide and you can rely on the Coastguard on picking up the signal immediately and your GPS location given to lifeboat and coastguard teams. The PLB needs to be activated so the casualty will need to be conscious with the aerial pointing out of the water. One of our team carries one on his lifejacket permanently.
The VHF handheld VHF radio’s are now reasonable priced and available widely
The RNLI makes these points with regards VHF radio’s:
If possible, buy a DSC-equipped radio (some are not). A DSC distress alert is a recognised emergency signal, and it also transmits your location.
Send a distress alert followed by a mayday voice call on Channel 16. This communicates the distress message to all vessels and shore stations in range.
Requires an operator’s licence, a ship’s portable radio or ship’s radio licence (free in the UK if requested online) and a Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) number, which comes with the radio licence.
I can’t believe we are coming to the end of November already! We have been blessed with some really good weather recently and not too much rain. This month’s blog is all about knowing who to call in a coastal emergency. Surprisingly, over half the people we talk to when we are out and about at community events, on beaches and coastal areas do not know that in the event of seeing or hearing an animal or a person in difficulty in the water that they should dial ‘999’ they should ask for the Coastguard straight away. Many people opt to call the Police or Fire Service which wastes several vital minutes.
The Coastguard have Operations Centre’s (CGOC’s) dotted across the UK, at Aberdeen, Belfast, Dover, Falmouth, Holyhead, Humber, London, Milford Haven, Shetland, Stornaway and the National Maritime Operations Centre at Fareham. Each is staffed 24/7 and answers ‘999’ calls from members of the public and Mayday distress calls via radio. In the event of an emergency at the coast, they will co-ordinate the tasking of search and rescue assets eg RNLI boats, independent lifeboats, Coastguard Rescue teams who are trained in mud and cliff rescue, advanced first aid, advanced missing person search techniques; and of course search and rescue helicopters.
Lifeboats and Coastguard are regularly called out to dogs who have either ventured or fallen down a cliff; or gone for an extended swim (often the owner may have also been cut-off by the tide). If this should happen then the Coastguard should be called without delay via ‘999’ who will then task the lifeboat or Coastguard rescue team. Our Team enjoyed a recent visit to the Dover CGOC where we learned alot about how the Coastguard operates. Remember don’t delay if you think anyone or an animal is in trouble in the water call ‘999’ and ask for the Coastguard.
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