Come rain or shine, the August bank holiday is one of the busiest weekends of the year for the RNLI’s volunteer lifeboat crew members and lifeguards. This year, despite renewed strike action by HM Coastguard members, it will be business as usual for the charity’s lifeboat crews and lifeguards.
Last August bank holiday weekend, the RNLI launched lifeboats 230 times to those in danger at sea, while RNLI lifeguards responded to 819 incidents on busy beaches.
This year, the charity’s crews and lifeguards are preparing for another busy time despite further HM Coastguard strike action. The RNLI lifesaving charity is independent of the Government and HM Coastguard and is operating normally.
RNLI Chief Executive Andrew Freemantle CBE is concerned that the strike action could affect lifeboat launching:
‘Anything that causes a break in the communications chain between those requiring assistance at sea, HM Coastguard and the rescue resources – in our case RNLI lifeboats – could potentially put lives at risk. Therefore we are monitoring the situation closely and liaising with the coastguard over their contingency plans. The RNLI responds to 9 out of 10 maritime emergency calls requiring lifeboats and, in the light of continuing industrial action, and to minimise the potential effect of any delay in emergency communication, the RNLI is reviewing its options regarding launching its lifeboats to maritime emergencies.’
Freemantle is also keen to ensure that the public are clear that RNLI lifeboats and lifeguards will not be on strike this weekend:
‘There is still some confusion in the minds of the public over the respective roles of the RNLI and the Coastguard. The RNLI’s charitable UK lifeboat service is provided entirely through the public’s generosity, unlike the Coastguard which is government-funded. If people think our lifeboat crews are part of the strike then there is a real possibility that they will not support our charity in the future.’
As the weekend approaches, following recent tragic incidents around the coast, RNLI National Beach Safety Manager Steve Wills is concerned that the public are still not taking safety warnings seriously enough:
‘Too many families and friends have had to face the harrowing task of coming to terms with the loss of a loved one on the coast this summer, some of these could have been avoided if people took safety seriously; but RNLI research shows that less than ten per cent of people consider safety when choosing a beach to swim at.
‘The unpredictable nature of the weather is unlikely to deter avid beach-goers and sea-farers from going to the beach and using the water this weekend so it’s even more important that they swim at lifeguarded beaches. We are also very concerned at the increasing numbers of people tombstoning, especially when under the influence of alcohol. We don’t recommend tombstoning under any circumstances, but our advice is if you do is to always check the depth first and never jump or dive if you are unsure of what’s under the surface of the water. It’s important to remember that the depth of the water can alter quickly with a changing tide.
‘The August bank holiday weekend is always a busy one for us. If you’re on the coast or at sea please make safety a priority, follow our safety tips and have a great weekend.’
Beach safety tips:
1. Always swim at a lifeguarded beach and between the red and yellow flags
2. Never swim under the influence of alcohol or drugs
3. Always supervise children and never let them play in the water alone
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
Sea Safety tips:
1. Wear a lifejacket
2. Check your engine and fuel
3. Tell others where you are going
4. Carry some means of calling for help
5. Keep an eye on weather and tides
Notes to editors / picture desks / news desks:
· During previous strike action, there have been instances of media reports confusing the respective roles of the RNLI and HM Coastguard. This is particularly damaging to the reputation of the RNLI, a charity, which is reliant upon donations to support its volunteer lifeboat crews and its lifeguards to save lives at sea.
· Please ensure that any images use in relation to the HM Coastguard strike threat do not portray RNLI lifeboats in a way that suggests RNLI lifeboat crews are taking part in the strike action.
· HM Coastguard has a statutory responsibility for coordinating search and rescue (SAR) around the coastline of the UK. HM Coastguard decides which resources are needed for a search and rescue incident and requests lifeboats to launch – RNLI volunteer crews respond to that request by launching lifeboats and carrying out search and rescue at sea.
· Two photos are attached: One of an RNLI Tamar class all-weather lifeboat (please credit Nicholas Leach) and another of an RNLI lifeguard (please credit Greg Spray).
· For video footage of RNLI lifeboats and lifeguards, visit the following links to the RNLI’s official YouTube site: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ehTyqCQ5mI0
RNLI media contacts
For more information please telephone the RNLI Public Relations office on 01202 336789 or email email@example.com.
For more information on the RNLI please visit www.rnli.org.uk. News releases and other media resources, including RSS feeds, downloadable photos and video, are available at the RNLI Press Centre www.rnli.org.uk/press
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 230 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and has more than 100 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK. 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 137,000 lives. The RNLI is a charity registered in England, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland.