RNLI Lifeguards at Bournemouth beach anticipate their busiest week of the summer
This summer, with up to 15,000 people a day on the beach over weekends, RNLI lifeguards in Bournemouth have been incredibly busy keeping the public safe. They are now preparing for what they expect to be the busiest week of the summer, with August Bank Holiday and Bournemouth Air Show coming up.
With many seaside resorts drawing closer to that end of season wind down stage, it’s business as usual for Bournemouth lifeguards. They have become accustomed to manically busy days at the beach, and the next two weekends promise to be no different. They are preparing for August Bank Holiday and Bournemouth Air Show weekends.
The team of RNLI lifeguards have responded to hundreds of incidents on the beach so far this summer, involving a total of over 240 people in July alone.
RNLI Lifeguard Supervisor Dave Van Beirendonck comments: ‘I think we will see a natural rise in the number of assists this summer as a sheer result of numbers of people at the beach. Our figures for August should certainly be very high, due to the sheer number of tourists visiting the beach over school holidays, the August Bank Holiday weekend and the Bournemouth Air Show.’
In July, they responded to almost 20 major first aid incidents. These include: heatstroke, often as a result of people spending too much time in the midday sun or drinking alcohol excessively; fits; seizures; and other medical emergencies. They also treated almost 160 people requiring minor first aid.
The Bournemouth lifeguard team rescued or assisted close to 20 people in difficulty in the water.
Over the next two weeks, they expect similar incidents to occur, however they will endeavour as always to take preventative actions throughout the day, to reduce the number of potentially dangerous water related incidents which beachgoers get into. These preventative actions include: making announcements over the PA system; giving safety advice to people on the beach; encouraging weaker swimmers to move into shallower water; ensuring red and yellow flags are positioned according to tide and conditions, to indicate the safest place to swim; and even putting up red flags to indicate that conditions are too strong and swimming is prohibited.
In 2017, RNLI lifeguards took over 3.3million preventative actions across the 249 beaches which the charity operates lifeguarded patrols on. It is expected that this figure will be exponentially higher this year, as a result of people flocking to the coats during the good weather.
Ollie Taylor, lifeguard, explains that every beach has its own local hazards. ‘Here at Bournemouth we have a big sandbank just off the beach so it gets deep quickly. Swimmers who are less experienced or do not know the beach often get taken by surprise when they suddenly become out of their depth. We always encourage people to stay within their depth and be aware of this dip if they are less confident swimmers.’
Lifeguards are vigilant of tourists who may not be as aware of beach safety as coastal dwellers may be. Ollie says: ‘We are all here because we love where we work and we love the bay, we want people to come down here and enjoy the beach safely.’
Ollie’s colleague Tom Dowden continues: ‘We can also have quite a strong tidal flow at times which catches swimmers out, and sometimes drags them quickly down to towards the pier or the groynes at either side of our beach area.’ The RNLI encourage the public everywhere to chat to the lifeguards when you arrive at the beach and ask about tide and conditions. ‘We are like a tourist information centre on the beach and are always happy to answer people’s safety questions.’
This summer manic is the new norm
Bournemouth is a popular spot for tourists flocking to the coast, as it is made easily accessible with bus routes bringing enthusiastic beachgoers in from as far afield as Birmingham.
Since May Bank Holiday Weekend, there has been an average of 10,000 to 15,000 people per day on the beach over the weekends. Tom Dowden is working at Bournemouth beach for his third lifeguarding season, he comments: ‘Last year we had one or two days where the beach was manically busy, this year, with the great weather, manic busy has become the new norm.’
Day to day incidents which lifeguards respond to include first aid, water related rescues and assists, and helping in reuniting people who have gone missing from their group in the crowds. Due to the sheer volume of people on the beach this summer, the lifeguards describe themselves as responding to ‘crowd control’ incidents often also.
RNLI Lifeguard Supervisor Dave Van Beirendonck explains: ‘The RNLI are the uniformed service visible on the sand, so people come to us with all sorts of extra-curricular problems and incidents, which we are almost always happy to help with. The local council rangers are great at supporting us out when it gets very busy, and it’s useful to have additional numbers on hand to help.’
The lifeguards are expecting another busy few weeks before they get some down time. With school holidays continuing, and August Bank Holiday Weekend and the Bournemouth Air Show coming up, Dave urges people to make sure to: ‘Make sure to find your nearest lifeguarded beach when you are planning your day at the seaside, and always make sure to swim between the red and yellow flags as that is where the lifeguards will be keeping the closest eye on you.’
The RNLI urges the public to find your nearest lifeguarded beach when planning your next beach day, and to always swim between the red and yellow flags, as that’s where the lifeguards will be keeping the best watch of you and your loved ones.
If you’re interested in becoming a lifeguard next summer, check out what it takes to become a lifeguard
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 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and, in a normal year, more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. 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 142,700 lives.