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Storms and statistics - another lifesaving year for the RNLI

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Dave Riley
Press Officer - News at Poole HQ.

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Lifeboats News Release

  • Date:
  • Author: Dave Riley

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) rescued 9,763 people in the UK and Ireland in 2015 – a year when volunteer lifeboat crew and lifeguards were kept busy by storms so bad they were given names.

In 2015:

• The charity’s lifeboats launched 8,228 times
• Lifeboats rescued 7,973 of which 348 were lives saved*
• Lifeguards dealt with 15,714 incidents rescuing 1,790 people of which 94 were lives saved*

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) rescued 9,763 people in the UK and Ireland in 2015 – a year when volunteer lifeboat crew and lifeguards were kept busy by storms so bad they were given names.
RNLI volunteer lifeboat crews rescued 7,973 people whilst the charity’s lifeguards rescued 1,790 people around UK and Irish coastal waters.

The charity’s busiest lifeboat station was Tower lifeboat on the River Thames in London which launched 465 times assisting 90 people, and saving 15 lives**. Their neighbouring station, Chiswick, launched 227 times and rescued 135 people and saving 3 lives.

It was another busy year around the coast for the charity’s volunteers - Southend-on-Sea Lifeboat Station was the RNLI’s busiest coastal station, launching 142 times and assisting 120 people. The next busiest coastal stations were three in the South of England; Poole, Plymouth and Eastbourne, launching 99 times each and assisting 385 people between them.

Will Stephens, RNLI Head of Lifesaving said;
‘Our volunteer lifeboat crew and lifeguards have again worked exceptionally hard serving our local communities. We continue to urge those working or enjoying our coastline and inland areas to respect the water. We understand that things can go wrong from time to time, so some preventative maintenance and annual checks prior to the boating season should allow for worry free sea time.

‘Inland, floods caused heartache for many at the end of 2015 and we ask those faced with floods to be aware of the fast flowing flood waters and to keep a safe distance.

‘I would like to thank all of our volunteers, both on and off the water, for their tireless hard work and dedication over the last 12 months. Our lifesaving work depends on the support of our crews, fundraisers, education teams and supporters. Without this we would not be able to operate.’

The volunteer lifeboat crews carry pagers 24/7, never knowing what may lie ahead when the alarm is raised. The most common cause for lifeboat call out in 2015 was to boats with machinery failure, launching 1,492 times (18% of all launches).

Sailing pleasure craft accounted for 1,579 launches (19% of all launches) and power pleasure craft 1,464 (18%) of launches.1,080 (13%) of calls were to reports of people in the water.   

With over 15.5 million visitors to RNLI lifeguarded beaches in 2015, the charity’s lifeguards helped over 18,000 people dealing with anything from stings, slips and trips to missing children, major first aid incidents, as well as rescues in the water.

Leesa Harwood, Community Lifesaving and Fundraising Director said;

‘It’s humbling to see the lifesaving work of our volunteer crew, lifeguards, flood rescue teams and safety advisers – out of the 9,763 rescued, 442 people are alive today because of their actions. And now the RNLI as a whole owes it to them to act with integrity and tenacity as we take this step to opt-in communications from January 2017.

‘So I’m appealing to all our dedicated supporters to help us by ticking our opt-in box over the next few months – to hear about our rescues, our safety advice, and our events and help us save the lives of hundreds more in the years to come.

‘Look out for our future opt-in campaign, or if you want to opt in immediately call our Supporter Care team on 0300 300 9918 (uk) or 0044 1202 663234 (non-uk) weekdays between 8am-6pm or e-mail at optin@rnli.org.uk.’

Notable rescues in 2015

Angle lifeboat volunteers evacuate fishing crew from sinking boat
With his boat sinking fast and four crew on-board the skipper of a fishing vessel broadcast a mayday distress call which saw Angle all-weather lifeboat launch in the early hours of 28 September. The Angle volunteers passed two crewmen and a pump onto the boat to try to save it, however their attempts where in vain. The two volunteers and five fishermen were transferred safely onto the Angle lifeboat. Full story and video here:

Surf conditions cause busy period for Bantham lifeguards
Out taking advantage of the surf, two paddle boarders were caught in a rip current and taken towards a dangerous rocky outcrop. Lifeguards in Bantham, South Devon, launched their inshore rescue boat in heavy sea conditions to assist the two body-boarders back to shore. Video here.

Crew of yacht pounding against the rocks, saved by Dun Laoghaire lifeboat
The crew of a yacht being dashed against rocks were glad to see the Dun Laoghaire all-weather lifeboat. Two of the occupants managed to clamber ashore onto the rocks whilst one stayed on-board. The lifeboat crew managed to pass a tow line across to the yacht and pull it clear of the rocks. Full story and video here.

Scarborough Helmsman receives bravery award for a difficult service
2015 saw a prestigious bravery medal being awarded to Scarborough Helmsman Rudi Barman in recognition for his courage during a difficult service. The station’s D class inshore lifeboat launched in treacherous conditions after a local man entered the water to save his dog. Despite the best efforts of the volunteer crew in awful weather and rough seas, the man sadly lost his life. Watch Rudi talk about that night here.

Wet feet and rising tides keep Thames lifeboats busy during University boat race
The annual University boat race on the Thames in April 2015 kept the crew busy at Chiswick Lifeboat Station. As crowds gathered along the shoreline trying to get a good vantage point for the race, they were unaware of the rising tide and wash from the other boats and 60 people needed help to safety on dry land. More here.

Storm Abigail to Storm Frank, floods rescue teams evacuate hundreds
As heavy rain and storms poured down in December, the RNLI flood teams were called into assist other emergency services. In Carlisle the teams evacuated around 200 people from their flooded homes and worked tirelessly around the clock. The team were later asked to help again in Peebles, Scotland. Full story and video here.

Fishermen saved from tragedy by Peterhead lifeboat
Pulling themselves onto rocks after their boat sank was the best option for two fisherman. The all-weather lifeboat from Peterhead, Scotland was launched and the crew made best use of the smaller daughter boat on-board to rescue the fisherman from the precarious rocky outcrop. More here.

*it is hoped that naming storms will help raise awareness of severe weather and ensure greater safety of the public. – source: Met Office
**lives saved are defined as immediate risks to life, ie if the lifeboat hadn’t arrived on scene the person would not have survived

Notes to editors:

A compilation video of the RNLI rescues in 2015 is available here

Key figures:

8,228 launches.
Busiest station – Tower 465 launches
Crew spent 57,393 hours on rescues
124 launches in winds above force 7
3,241 launches were in darkness
7,973 people rescued
348 lives saved**
828 people under 18 rescued
7,145 people over 18 rescued
448 launches where first aid was required.

1,492 launches to boats with machinery failure - the single biggest cause of incidents
3,678 launches to pleasure craft (includes power, sail and manual pleasure craft)
428 launches were to people cut off by the tide

RNLI lifeguards dealt with15,714 incidents.
18,181 people were helped by RNLI lifeguards
94 lives saved**
1,070 incidents involved major first aid treatment
10,592 incidents involved minor first aid treatment
Newquay and Padstow was the busiest area with 2,842 incidents

Flood Rescue:
13 deployments
Assisted 337
Rescued 74
RNLI media contacts
For more information please telephone Kirsti Pawlowski, RNLI Public Relations Officer on 01202 336789 or kirsti_pawlowski@rnli.org.uk  or David Riley, RNLI Press Officer on 01202 336789 or david_riley@rnli.org.uk 
RNLI online
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 200 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 139,000 lives.

Charity number CHY 2678 in the Republic of Ireland and registered in England and Wales (209603) and Scotland (SC037736)

Photos and video

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Key facts about the RNLI

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution is the charity that saves lives at sea. Our volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland from 237 lifeboat stations, including four along the River Thames and inland lifeboat stations at Loch Ness, Lough Derg, Enniskillen and Lough Ree. Additionally the RNLI has more than 1,000 lifeguards on over 180 beaches around the UK and operates a specialist flood rescue team, which can respond anywhere across the UK and Ireland when inland flooding puts lives at risk.

The RNLI relies on public donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. As a charity it is separate from, but works alongside, government-controlled and funded coastguard services. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824 our lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved at least 140,000 lives. Volunteers make up 95% of the charity, including 4,600 volunteer lifeboat crew members and 3,000 volunteer shore crew. Additionally, tens of thousands of other dedicated volunteers raise funds and awareness, give safety advice, and help in our museums, shops and offices.

Learn more about the RNLI

For more information please visit the RNLI website or Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. News releases, videos and photos are available on the News Centre.

Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 or by email.


The RNLI is a charity registered in England and Wales (209603) and Scotland (SC037736). Charity number 20003326 in the Republic of Ireland