RNLI lifeboat crews and lifeguards braced for busiest weekend of the year

Monday 24 August 2009

Author: Alison Levett

RNLI lifeboat crews and lifeguards braced for busiest weekend of the year
The volunteer lifeboat crews and lifeguards of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) are preparing themselves for what is traditionally their busiest weekend of the year.

Over an average August bank holiday weekend in the north of England, the charity's lifeboat crews launch 36 times and rescue at least that many people*. Around the UK, RNLI crews expect to launch around 250 times. RNLI lifeguards are operating on northern beaches for the first time this summer but in previous years, counterparts around the coast have responded to more than 600 incidents over the bank holiday weekend.

This year, though, with more people expected to be holidaying in the UK, there is every chance RNLI lifeboat crews and lifeguards will be even busier. Steve Wills, RNLI Beach Safety Manager, said the charity wants to ensure people visiting the coast are aware of the potential hazards and know how to keep themselves safe, both on the beach and at sea.

He added: 'This bank holiday, especially if the weather is good, we fully expect to see lots of people making their way to the coast. Sadly, there have been a number of fatalities and serious incidents around the coast already this summer, so we hope people will take notice of our advice so they can have fun but stay safe at the same time.

'Beach-goers, particularly those planning to use the water, should choose a lifeguarded beach and swim between the red and yellow flags. Those who can't get to a lifeguarded beach should find out about their chosen beach before they go - check the weather and tide times and take notice of the safety signs at the beach entrance. Children should be supervised at all times, especially when in or near the water. Anyone who starts to struggle in the water should stick their hand in the air and shout for help. If they see someone else in trouble, they should call 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard, but should not attempt a rescue themselves.'

And Peter Chennell, RNLI Sea Safety Manager, said: 'Our advice is not meant to spoil the fun of water users but it is founded on the years of experience of RNLI lifeboat crews, who know how unpredictable the weather can be and how quickly things can go wrong at sea. We always recommend that those going boating or enjoying other watersports activities make sure they follow our sea safety tips. In particular, we advise that all who go afloat wear a well-fitted lifejacket and know how to operate it should an emergency situation unfold, because a lifejacket is useless unless worn, if it is worn incorrectly or if it is not in full working order.'

The RNLI's advice aims to help prevent incidents from happening in the first place but, should anyone find themselves in trouble in the water, the RNLI's volunteer crews and lifeguards will be ready to respond. There are 235 RNLI lifeboat stations around the coasts of the UK and Republic or Ireland, and 142 RNLI lifeguarded beaches around the coasts of the UK. The lifeguards operate beach patrols between 10am and 6pm, while the volunteer crews are on-call 24/7 to respond to emergencies at sea.

The RNLI's top five beach safety tips
1. Always swim at a lifeguarded beach, between the red and yellow flags
2. Never use inflatables in strong winds or rough seas
3. Check times of high and low tide before you go - to avoid getting stranded
4. If you get into trouble, stick your hand in the air and shout for help
5. If you see someone else in trouble, tell a lifeguard. If you can't see a lifeguard, call 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard
For more information, visit www.rnli.org.uk/beachsafety

Six RNLI Sea Safety tips: remember IT'S WET:
Inform - tell others where you're going
Training - knowledge of your activity is essential
SOS device - carry a means of calling for help
Wear a lifejacket - a life statement, not a fashion statement - wear it
Engine and fuel - have you sufficient fuel and spares?
Tides and weather - check the conditions before heading out
For more information, visit www.rnli.org.uk/seasafety

* Source: RNLI rescue statistics 2004-2008. August bank holiday figures cover Friday to Monday inclusive.
RNLI lifeboat crews and lifeguards braced for busiest weekend of the year

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