Parents warned to take extra care of their families on the beach this summer
With the school summer holidays now in full swing and many families choosing to staycation rather than travel abroad, The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and Her Majesty’s (HM) Coastguard are urging every parent to be aware of the potential dangers of rip currents to be beach safe.
On Sunday 26 July, seven people, including five teenagers were lucky to be rescued after being caught in a strong, fast moving current in Wales.
And at the start of the month, RNLI lifeguards leapt to the rescue of 12 unsuspecting bathers who were swept off their feet by a rip current into rough seas at a beach in Cornwall.
Last year, RNLI lifeguards dealt with more than 1,500 incidents involving rip currents, saving the lives of 95 people caught in them.
Gareth Morrison, RNLI Head of Water Safety, said: ‘Our coastline is a fantastic place to spend time together as a family but there are also plenty of potential dangers, especially for those who aren’t fully aware of their surroundings.
‘The main one is rip currents which cause most incidents in the water that RNLI lifeguards deal within the UK.’
‘We are seeing a spike in incidents this summer involving these potentially deadly currents, which move even faster than an Olympic swimmer and can quickly drag people into deep water a long way from the shore.
‘It’s important that anybody venturing in or near the sea knows, not just what rip currents are, but how to react if they are caught in one or see someone else in trouble.
‘They are difficult to spot and even the most experienced and strongest swimmers can find themselves caught out so it’s important where possible to use beaches that have lifeguards patrolling on them.’
If you find yourself caught in a rip current, try to remember the following key safety advice:
- Don’t try to swim against it, you will quickly get exhausted.
- If you can stand, wade don’t swim.
- If you can, swim parallel to the shore until free of the rip and then head for shore.
- If you can’t swim – FLOAT to live by leaning back in the water, extending your arms and legs, and resisting the urge to thrash around to gain control of your breathing.
- Always raise your hand and shout for help.
- If you see anyone else in trouble, alert the lifeguards or call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.
Off-duty Aberdovey lifeboat crew member Arwel Jones was one of those who sprang into action on Sunday afternoon after his wife spotted two teenagers struggling in the water.
Together with some lifeguard friends and former lifeboat crew who happened to be wind and kitesurfing, they pulled seven people to safety.
‘They were just so lucky the right people happened to be in the right place at the right time,’ said Arwel. ‘There was even a doctor on the beach by chance, when we got them out of the water.
‘It’s a scary thought but a few seconds here or there and it could have been a very different outcome.’
While rip currents are not the only danger at the coast with tidal cut-offs and inflatables also the cause of many emergency calls, they make up the majority of incidents in the water for RNLI lifeguards and are a major cause of accidental drowning across the world.
The RNLI and Coastguard strongly advise against taking inflatables to the beach and urge people to be aware of the tide times and local hazards to avoid getting into trouble.
Director of HM Coastguard Claire Hughes said: ‘We’ve seen so many times how easy it is to get caught out by the sea.
‘That is why it is important to swim or bodyboard on lifeguarded beaches, stay within your depth, swim parallel to the shore and keep a close eye on friends and family at the beach and in the water.
‘Make sure you are always contactable at the coast by carrying a fully-charged mobile phone and if you get into trouble or see someone else in trouble, call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.’
- Despite the ongoing challenges posed by Covid-19 and social distancing the RNLI is providing a lifeguard service on 176 beaches this summer, while RNLI lifeboat crews and HM Coastguard remain on call 24/7 ready to respond to emergencies.
- During last year’s school summer holidays RNLI lifeguards responded to 5,264 incidents involving under-18s across the UK.
- In the same school holiday period, they saved 92 lives across all age groups.
- Rip currents accounted for 1,557 incidents dealt with by lifeguards last year in the UK with 95 lives saved.
- They also helped to reunite nearly 1,800 lost children and teenagers with their families and aided 346 people in incidents involving inflatables.
For further information on the beach safety campaign visit: rnli.org/beach2020
A full list of lifeguarded beaches can be found here: rnli.org/find-my-nearest/lifeguarded-beaches
Notes to editors:
- Interviews are available via phone, Skype, or Microsoft Teams
- The RNLI operates 238 lifeboat stations around the coast of the UK and Ireland, and they continue to launch to those in peril at sea.
- To support the RNLI’s lifesavers, go to: rnli.org/donate
- RNLI shops, museums and visitor centres remain shut and all community fundraising has stopped.
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.
Learn more about the RNLI
Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries