The Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s (RNLI) Sea Safety team is stepping up its ‘Useless unless worn’ lifejacket awareness campaign in advance of the summer holiday season, with a simple, yet thought provoking advertisement running in magazines and marinas. The message to ‘Please put your lifejacket on’ is also being spread by the RNLI’s team of volunteer Sea Safety Officers around the coast over the summer at roadshows and events.
The RNLI’s lifejacket campaign, first launched in June 2007, aims to encourage all who go to sea in their leisure time to always put their lifejackets on when going to sea, and then decide when (if at all) to take it off.
The RNLI’s Sea Safety Manager, Peter Chennell, explains:
‘A lifejacket is useless unless worn, if it is worn incorrectly or if it is not in full working order. It’s much safer to get into the habit of wearing a lifejacket at all times when afloat, because it means you’ll be familiar with your particular lifejacket and how to operate it should an emergency situation unfold. In the summer months when boat owners may take family and friends who don’t often go afloat, it’s even more crucial to ensure that all on board, including babies and children, are wearing a well-fitted lifejacket.
'A correctly fitting lifejacket will keep you afloat so that, should you end up in the water, you have time to overcome the initial shock and you can begin to think about survival. It will also keep your airways clear of the water, which is absolutely crucial because it only takes just a cup full of water in the lungs to make survival difficult and just over a litre to drown. A lifejacket also buys you time, this will allow for the search and rescue services to come to your aid. Our advice is not meant to spoil the fun of water users, but it is founded on the years of experience of RNLI lifeboat crew who know how unpredictable the weather can be and how quickly things can go wrong at sea.’
A recent rescue by RNLI Lifeguards and volunteer lifeboat crew based in Teignmouth, South Devon, serves to demonstrate the importance of not just carrying lifejackets aboard, but wearing them at all times when afloat.
On Saturday 6 June the Teignmouth RNLI inshore lifeboat and lifeguards responded to reports of three people in the water after their small boat was swamped in choppy conditions off Teignmouth beach. Visibility was poor due to rain and those onboard the boat had no VHF radio or means of calling for help, so an onlooker had raised the alarm. A group of kayakers managed to help the casualties to the shore where the lifeboat crew and lifeguards provided medical assistance because the casualties were suffering from mild hypothermia.
Rory Smith, RNLI Area Lifeguard Supervisor who supported the lifeboat volunteers that day as they dealt with the situation on the beach, says:
‘I noticed that the people had lifejackets onboard the boat but they were still in the packets that they had been purchased in and had automatically inflated inside the bags, clearly proving the point that lifejackets are useless unless worn. We provided back-up for the lifeboat crew and operated as a team to ensure there was a successful conclusion to what could have been a very different outcome had a member of the public not raised the alarm so quickly.’
Lifejackets should not only be worn, but they need regular maintenance checks too. They should be stored in a dry, well-aired area when not in use. RNLI Sea Safety managers and volunteers around the coast of the UK and Ireland found that almost 35% of lifejackets they’ve looked at during RNLI Sea Checks would, in their opinion, fail to operate.
To keep your lifejacket in full working order it should be given regular checks throughout the boating season. Lifejackets should be sent off for a full service (which can cost from around £10 per lifejacket) in line with the manufacturers recommendations.
RNLI Sea Safety Manager, Peter Chennell says:
‘I urge all boaters to get familiar with their lifejackets and safety kit, and to look after it, so that it can look after you! On inspection, should you feel that your lifejacket might not perform then it is time to send it for a service or to invest in a new one. The things to consider if you’re going to buy a new lifejacket are the type of inflation system. The RNLI also recommends that crotch straps, spray hood and lights should be fitted, although these do not always come as standard, and it’s worth considering buying a pouch for day-night flares too.’
For full advice on choosing, caring and wearing your lifejacket please see: www.rnli.org.uk/seasafety
Notes to Editors:
- The RNLI’s ‘Useless unless worn’ lifejacket campaign is supported by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and The Royal Yachting Association
- A copy of the RNLI’s latest lifejacket advertisement is available on request
RNLI media contacts:
For more information please telephone RNLI PR on 01202 336 789 or contact RNLI Public Relations Officer Katie Wilton on 01202 66 3127 / 07899 076 224 / email@example.com