RNLI reminds beachgoers of lifeguard’s role as heatwave continues
RNLI lifeguards in Northern Ireland have returned to maintain a daily patrol on 11 beaches this summer.
Lifeguards will be working to keep visitors safe on eight beaches along the Causeway Coast and three in County Down.
The beaches include Benone, Downhill, Castlerock, Portstewart Strand, Portrush West, Portrush East, Whiterocks, Ballycastle, Tyrella, Murlough and Cranfield.
Lifeguards will be on the beach daily between 11am and 7pm on the Causeway Coast and between 10am and 6pm in County Down.
With the beaches already experiencing hot temperatures, RNLI Lifeguard Supervisor Karl O’Neill is expecting a busy start to the season: ‘It is wonderful to see people come down to the beach and enjoy this good weather just as our lifeguards return to operate a daily patrol for the summer months. They will be on hand to offer advice, put their training into practice and to ultimately help anyone who may get into difficulty on any of our beaches or find themselves in danger in the water.’
In 2017, RNLI lifeguards were involved in a range of preventative actions and assisted incidents, including: swimmers and surfers caught in rip currents; bathers with jelly fish stings; children lost from their parents; beachgoers requiring casualty care; kite surfers, kayakers, body boarders and stand-up paddle boarders in difficulty; walkers cut off by tides; and animals stuck near the shoreline.
The RNLI’s advice for anyone planning a trip to the beach is to check weather and tide times before you go and if planning to go into the water, to swim at a lifeguarded beach, between the red and yellow flags. During this particularly hot weather, visitors should remember to bring sun cream and to apply it as necessary on themselves and children. Visitors should avoid using inflatables in strong winds or rough seas. If you get into trouble, stick your hand in the air and shout for help and 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.
Rip currents, tides and surf sports are among the biggest causes of incidents dealt with by lifeguards.
If you’re caught in a rip current, the RNLI’s advice is to stay calm, float on your back to regulate your breathing until you can swim to shore or call for help. If you can stand, wade, don’t swim. Keep hold of your board or inflatable to help you float. Raise your hand and shout for help. Never try to swim directly against the rip or you'll get exhausted. Swim parallel to the beach until free of the rip, then make for shore.
The best means of preventing the danger of being cut off by the tide is to get local tidal information, and to keep an eye on the time and direction.
Surfers and water sport enthusiasts should remember to tell someone where they are going and when they will be back and to always carry a means of calling for help, preferably a waterproof DSC VHF, a Personal Locator Beacon or a tracker or a fully charged mobile phone, easily accessible in a waterproof pouch.
Wear a personal flotation device and suitable clothing. Get the appropriate level of training, and always make sure you launch and recover between the black and white chequered flags on a beach. Consider other water users by learning the rights of way in the surf. This can save you and others getting injured.
Meanwhile, the RNLI will be running its national drowning prevention campaign, Respect the Water, throughout the summer.
Now in its fifth year, the Respect the Water campaign focuses on urging anyone who finds themselves in trouble in cold water to practice the ‘float’ survival skill – a simple technique that could mean the difference between life and death.
The charity wants the public to follow the FLOAT message and stay calm and ‘float’ on your back for a short time to regain control of your breathing.
Lifeguard Supervisor Michael Thompson explains: ‘Floating is not always something people are confident they can do but most people can float. To float, fight your instinct to thrash around, then lean back, extend your arms and legs and if you need to, gently move your arms and legs to help you float. Float until you can control your breathing. Only then call for help or swim to safety’.
The RNLI has created a new video https://www.rnlivideolibrary.org.uk/play/l19reFnV explaining the five steps to floating, to help give people the confidence to be able to float if they find themselves in trouble in cold water.
The Respect the Water campaign will run throughout the summer with advertising across cinema, outdoor posters, radio, online, and catch-up TV channels. The RNLI is asking people to visit RNLI.org/RespectTheWater where they will find information on floating. On social media search #RespectTheWater #FloatToLive.
RNLI media contacts
For more information please contact Nuala McAloon, RNLI Regional Media Officer on 0876483547, email Nuala_McAloon@rnli.org.uk or Niamh Stephenson RNLI Public Relations Manager Ireland on 00 353 87 1254 124 or Niamh_Stephenson@rnli.org.uk
Key facts about the RNLI
The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.