RNLI reinforces safety advice as heatwave continues this weekend
With even more UK and Channel Island beaches opening up RNLI Beach Lifeguard services this weekend, the public are urged to find your nearest life guarded beach and to always respect the water, to enjoy the hot weather safely.
Last year, they were involved in over 3.3 million preventative actions, assisted 15,558 incidents, with 24,044 people aided 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.
Lifeguards have had a busy start to the season providing assistance and vital rescue services, especially through the past week with the exceptional weather. Rip currents, tides and surf sports are among the biggest causes of incidents dealt with by lifeguards and below are some of the rescues they have carried out so far this year and safety advice for each.
During the half term week (26 May to 1 June), RNLI lifeguards were on duty patrolling seven beaches from Holywell Bay to Porthtowan in Cornwall. In that area alone, they dealt with 95 incidents, including four major first aids and 10 rescues from the water.
By July, 249 beaches will have RNLI summer safety services provided by over 1,500 highly-trained lifeguards.
Around 190 people die in UK and Irish waters each year, and over half never even planned to enter the water. Respect the Water is the RNLI’s drowning prevention campaign. It highlights the risks, advises how to avoid danger and increases the chances of survival in an emergency situation.
This year, we’re asking the public to help us to save more lives by sharing some simple survival skills: If you find yourself in the water unexpectedly, fight your instincts and float until the effects of cold water shock pass. If you see someone else in trouble in the water, dial 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard.
The majority of RNLI lifeguard incidents involve rip currents, which quickly drag people out to sea; this summer has been no exception so far.
In May, in North Cornwall, Perranporth Beach Senior RNLI lifeguard Sam Chamberlain was carrying out a patrol of the swimming area with a rescue tube, when a sudden rip current pulled three body boarders away from the shore. As he was assisting them, he spotted a small boy struggling to swim against the rip before becoming submerged.
He recounted: ‘I swam over and lifted him above the surface to breath, just as a large set of waves came crashing down. I bear hugged him, and held on as we took three waves breaking on top of us, pinning us to the bottom. After each wave I put him over my shoulder and pushed off the bottom so he could get some air. Once the set had passed we made it back to the shore and I was able to hand him over to safely to his family. It is a terrifying experience to be caught in a rip current, with what seems like no break in the wave crashing around you. I was so pleased I was on patrol and able to help him.’
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
Last year, 672 RNLI lifeguard incidents involved people being cut off by the tide. The best means of preventing this danger is to get local tidal information, and keep an eye on the time and direction.
In mid-June, at No Fear Beach in Whitsand Bay, South East Cornwall a group of three women were walking from Tregantle Beach to Sharrow Beach when they were quickly cut off by the incoming tide. A friend nearby spotted the danger and alerted the lifeguards at Sharrow Beach. Due to the location and conditions, the lifeguards requested the assistance of their colleagues at Tregonhawke Beach, who quickly launched their inshore rescue boat (IRB). They completed multiple trips to pick up the casualties in three foot surf, and brought the walkers safely back to the beach.
The following day, at the same beach, the lifeguards rescued Barney the dog who had chased a seagull further along the beach from his owners. Suddenly, due to the choppy surf and incoming tide, the only way to reach Barney was by boat. The Sharrow Beach lifeguards kept the owners out of danger themselves by launching the inshore rescue boat (IRB), persuaded Barney into it and returned him to safety.
Each year the RNLI responds to around 1,500 surf-sport-related incidents. Despite their growing popularity and the fun involved, safety needs to be considered. So far this summer lifeguards have responded to surfers, windsurfers, stand-up paddle boarders, canoeists, kayakers and body boarders in difficulty.
Guy Addington, RNLI Community Safety Partner’s advice to surf-sport enthusiasts is to: ‘Always tell someone where you're going and when you'll be back. Always bring a means of calling for help, preferably a waterproof DSC VHF, a Personal Locator Beacon or a tracker. A fully charged mobile phone, easily accessible to you in a waterproof pouch, is the bear minimum means we would recommend as you could easily be out of coverage around the coast. Check the weather forecast and tide times before you set out - they can change quickly. 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.’
On Longsands Beach near Tynemouth, in early June, lifeguards undergoing a training exercise became concerned about a kite surfer struggling to relaunch his kite. He had gotten into difficulty 200m out to sea when his 12m2 kite went down into the water and flooded. Despite it being a nice sunny day, strong winds and 2m swells were also making it difficult for him to relaunch the kite that he was tethered to. The vast size of the kite was dragging him down quickly, and could have turned the situation into a much more dangerous one had the lifeguard team not been so closely on hand. They assisted the exhausted casualty ashore using a rescue board.
NOTES TO EDITOR
Many of these beaches operate lifeguard patrols between 10am-6pm daily, however some have slightly different times, or weekend schedules. The RNLI urges the public to make sure that they are heading to a lifeguarded beach, by visiting: https://rnli.org/find-my-nearest/lifeguarded-beaches