Ahead of the Bank Holiday weekend the RNLI and HM Coastguard are launching a new safety campaign, urging everyone to choose lifeguarded beaches when they visit the coast. With continued uncertainty over foreign holidays and international travel, the RNLI is predicting this summer will be the busiest ever as Covid restrictions are eased and people choose to ‘staycation’.
In a survey, commissioned by the RNLI, 75% of those questioned – aged 16-64 – expect to visit a UK beach or the coast between April and September, with around half of that number likely to do so three or more times. Asignificantly higher proportion of the public (36%) also said they plan to visit the coast more than usual this year, compared to 2020 (24%).
Last summer RNLI lifeguards on 11 Northern Ireland beaches, rescued seventy-one people and dealt with 225 incidents.
‘We are expecting this summer to be the busiest ever for our lifeguards and volunteer lifeboat crews,’ said the RNLI’s Head of Water Safety Gareth Morrison. ‘These new figures back that up.
‘We want people to enjoy the coast but urge everyone to respect the water, think about their own safety and know what to do in an emergency.
‘Our main advice is to visit a lifeguarded beach and swim between the red and yellow flags. RNLI lifeguards will be patrolling eleven beaches in Northern Ireland this summer to offer advice on how to stay safe and they are also there to help anyone who gets into trouble.
‘Coastal areas provide a great opportunity to enjoy fresh air and open space but they can be an unpredictable and dangerous environment, particularly during early summer when air temperatures start warming up but water temperatures remain dangerously cold, increasing the risk of cold water shock.’
The key summer safety advice is:
Visit a lifeguarded beach & swim between the red and yellow flags
If you get into trouble Float to Live – lie on your back and relax, resisting the urge to thrash about
Call 999 in an emergency and ask for the Coastguard
Across the UK last year, RNLI lifeguards saved 110 lives, aided 25,172 people – including 1,908 involving bodyboards and 348 with inflatables – responded to 10,687 incidents and made more than 2.2M preventative actions.
Claire Hughes, Director of HM Coastguard, said: ‘2020 was an exceptionally busy year and we’re expecting more people to take their holidays around our wonderful coasts this summer.
‘We’re asking everyone to follow a few simple safety tips, so the trip is memorable for all the right reasons.
‘Before setting out, take a minute to check the weather, tides and winds to help avoid getting caught out.
‘Leave inflatables at home as they are designed for the pool, not open water, where the wind and current can very quickly take you out to sea and into danger.
‘Recreational watersports such as paddleboarding are now incredibly popular and we’d encourage everyone to make it a fun rather than frightening experience. It pays to prepare and taking a mobile phone in a waterproof pouch when you set out for a paddle will mean you can call for help if needed.
‘If you or someone else is in trouble, always call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.’
Not everyone who finds themselves in trouble in the water, expected to even get wet though.
‘If you find yourself in trouble in cold water, your natural reaction can be to panic and thrash around, which increases the chances of breathing in water and drowning. The best thing to do is to float on your back and wait for the effects of cold water shock to pass until you can control your breathing. You can then plan your next move to reach safety’ added the RNLI’s Gareth Morrison