2020 Hindsight for Chiswick RNLI
2020 started normally for Chiswick RNLI with an average number of incidents. The education team carried on with visits, fundraisers gave talks and we held our annual comedy night at the George IV in February….. then came the Covid 19 lockdown in March.
There was frantic activity to adapt operating procedures to continue the 24/7 search and rescue service on the Thames while maintaining safety for the crews. The full time and volunteer crew members were split into eight teams on 24 hour shifts. Already rigorous PPE provided by the RNLI was further enhanced. There was no mixing of crew teams and no contact at handover so that if any crew member tested positive then only one team would be stood down to quarantine. Regular 12 hour shifts resumed in July while enhanced protocols were maintained.
After the new safety regime became routine, Hammersmith Bridge was suddenly closed to all passage above and below the bridge. Discussions between many agencies resulted in Chiswick RNLI lifeboat being allowed to pass under the bridge but only for a life-saving emergency.
Rescue numbers are down from 2019 reflecting reduced leisure activity during the lockdowns. There were more people cut off by the tide as people unfamiliar with the Thames sought less busy locations for getting out and about. There were several serious injury incidents which required all aspects of the crews’ casualty care skills, but the many animal rescues were less challenging. The video of a cat rescue was viewed by thousands on social media; an extended version, with crew interviews will be on the BBC programme Saving Lives at Sea at 8pm on 7 January 2021.
All fundraising and education activity ceased in March. We diverted our efforts into our social media channels and increased followers across all platforms. We now have a dedicated JustGiving page which is linked on all our stories; as a result on-line fund-raising now equals our average totals for our local team.
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.