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Rescue services concerned over potential loss of life as schools break up

Lifeboats News Release

Concerned members of the public have been sending messages to the RNLI, Police and HM Coastguards in Portishead reporting that they have seen young people in our community taking unnecessary risks on our coast and in the Marina.


Float to Live poster

With the easing of the lockdown and restrictions by our UK Government, the emergency services have become increasingly busy and been made aware of a rise in numbers of incidents with young people swimming in their friendship groups on our coast and in the Marina.

A number of actions are being taken to highlight the dangers in our community including Dave Slack, Lifeboat Operations Manager writing to local schools asking them to encourage parents and guardians to talk to their children and highlight the dangers of entering the water.

Dave says, ‘The water temperature this time of year, despite the recent lovely weather, is still only 12 degrees and although the sea and the Marina seem very inviting, this can cause your body to go in to ‘cold water shock’ and leave you gasping uncontrollably for breath, causing you to drown. Cold water shock causes many deaths every year, both on our coast and in inland waters and we urge you to explain to your young people how to float to live.’

This is how to #FloatToLive:

· Lean back, extend your arms and legs.

· If you need to, gently move your arms and legs to help you float.

· Float until you can control your breathing.

· Only then will you be able to call for help or swim to safety.

Our coast, Marina, local rivers and streams can be used safely but only when there are a part of an organised event and with the appropriate support and supervision.

Dave also says, ‘Tombstoning from Portishead Pier and jumping in the Marina are activities which are extremely dangerous. The depth of water may hide unknown hazards under the surface which could lead to serious injury and drowning. The tide is very strong on our coast, particularly around the Pier, and can soon take you in to the very deep and busy shipping channel. Swimming in the Marina is prohibited, and we would therefore urge you to discourage your children from doing so.

‘The deep sinking mud is another hazard on our coast locally, making it very difficult to free yourself. Having one of the highest tidal ranges in the world here in Portishead, the water can rise and fall up to 15 metres every 6 hours. The tide moves in and out very quickly.

‘The RNLI volunteer crews at Portishead and Weston-super-Mare, are here to save lives at sea along the coastline of North Somerset, but there are no lifeguards on our coast or in the Marina. Anyone entering the water for any reason, does so at increased risk.

‘Normally at this time of year, our local RNLI Education Volunteers would be visiting schools or hosting visits at our lifeboat station and would be presenting beach and water safety advice to the young students. Unfortunately, because of the current pandemic, they are unable to do this. May I therefore take this opportunity to urge you all to inform your young people of the dangers on our coast and at the Marina and take extra care when visiting any of the UK’s beaches this year.’

If you would like to swim safely on the Coast, please use a beach that is patrolled by our RNLI lifeguards and to research the weather and tides before you go for your day out. Your nearest RNLI lifeguarded beach is Burnham on Sea.

If you find yourself or see someone else, in trouble on the coast, always call 999 and ask for the Coastguard, they will be there help you along with the RNLI lifeboat volunteers. Don’t leave it too late.

More information can be found on our website, and we advise you to take a few minutes to look at the safety advice available. There is also a large amount of ‘education material’ that your young people might find interesting and we would recommend that you bring this to their attention, where appropriate.

This is a useful link to our resources:

If you would like further advice get in touch with the RNLI on [email protected]

Please help us to inform your child of the risks associated with the water and to keep them safe.

RNLI notes to editors

A video of someone who used the 'Float to Live' advice to save his life is available to view and download here:

RNLI media contacts

For more information please contact Helen Lazenby, volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer, on 07800 595995 or the RNLI Press Office on 01202 336789.

Picture by Florence, aged 7

HM Coastguard

HM Coastguard safety poster

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 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and 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.

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Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or by email.