Unsung heroes: Hugh De Souza

A dynamic water safety adviser at Exmouth Lifeboat Station, Hugh has a passion for saving lives at sea.

Hugh De Souza, a water safety adviser at Exmouth Lifeboat Station

Photo: RNLI/Bethany Hope

Hugh De Souza, a water safety adviser at Exmouth Lifeboat Station

What does a water safety adviser do usually?

We prevent drowning by talking to everybody about how to stay safe. We give safety messages to all kinds of people – coastal walkers, kitesurfers, paddleboarders, anyone who’s near the water.

We can get to people before they get into danger, so when they get to a beach or waterway, they can remember our advice and avoid getting into trouble. Then the crew don’t have to risk their lives to go out and save them. That’s the essence of water safety and the Respect the Water campaign.

During the Covid-19 crisis, we’ve still been spreading water safety messages through social media and I’m also an NHS volunteer responder.

Why did you first join the RNLI?

I did over 30 years in the Police force, at Downing Street. Now I’m retired, I still want to help people. Volunteering is what I do.

I remember the day I first walked into the crew room. It was loud, with friendly banter. I felt I was home.

I like talking to people and I’m passionate about the RNLI. Although I’m not on the crew, this is a way I can do my bit to save lives. I just don’t get wet!

How do you know you’re saving lives?

What we’re doing as a team does make a difference. For example, 2 years ago we had some problems around here with dog walkers and cliff falls. We warned owners to keep their dogs on leads, got the path moved away from the edge and more signs put up. You can’t quantify it exactly, but we do know the crew here didn’t get as many call outs to dog walkers.

Do your friends and family get involved?

It’s all hands on deck when it comes to fundraising. My daughter Darcy has a Lifeboats T-shirt with her name and ‘Future Volunteer’ printed on it.

Stay safe

  • To help you stay safe during the coronavirus lockdown, please follow the latest advice from the Government. We would urge anyone planning a visit to the coast to follow RNLI safety advice:
  • Take care near cliffs – know your route and your limitations
  • Have a plan – check the weather forecast and tide times
  • If you fall into the water unexpectedly, FLOAT TO LIVE. Fight your instinct to thrash around, lean back, extend your arms and legs, and float
  • If boating, ensure your equipment is functioning and maintained
  • In any coastal emergency dial 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard
  • Take a look at our safety page for more tips.