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Safety advice for coastal visitors during COVID-19 outbreak

Lifeboats News Release

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is urging anyone planning a visit to the coast to stay safe and not take any unnecessary risks.

Given the current COVID-19 outbreak and the importance of social distancing and avoiding non-essential contact with others, coastal areas may be seen as providing an opportunity to enjoy fresh air and exercise while adhering to the government’s guidance. However our coastal areas can also present dangers of their own. The RNLI is asking people to ensure they follow essential water safety advice.

Please take the time to take note of signage at the entrances of beaches advising of the local hazards, check tide times to avoid being cut off and to check weather conditions before setting out as these can change quickly. If you see someone in difficulty, or you get into difficulty yourself, please call 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard.

More safety advice can be found at

Steve Instance, RNLI Water Safety Lead for the South West, said:

'Our beaches coastal areas may see an increase in visitors in the days and weeks to come, so we’re urging everyone to follow our advice and stay safe.

‘Whether you’re fishing, surfing, kayaking, sailing or just going for a walk, we’re asking people to be extra responsible and to avoid taking unnecessary risks to themselves and others which could put unnecessary pressure on front line services:

  • Take care if walking near cliffs - know your route
  • Check tide times daily
  • If going afloat, carry a means for calling for help and always wear a lifejacket
  • Check your equipment is in good working order
  • Be aware of the conditions and your capabilities and only enter the water if it is safe to do so.

‘During these unprecedented times, we have taken steps to close our lifeboat stations and shops to the public. However RNLI lifeboats and stations remain fully operational and we will still launch to those in peril on the sea.

‘As with all public places we’d encourage people to follow guidelines provided by the government to maintain a two-metre distance, follow good hygiene practices and avoid mass gatherings.’

Off duty RNLI lifeguards John Steadman and Nathan Wilmer, rescued two people off Fistral beach in Cornwall yesterday (19 March). The father and son were surfing and bodyboarding when they got caught in a rip current which took them away from the beach.

John reacted quickly, driving to where they could access the beach safely, he took a rescue board into the water and paddled through the surf to reach the pair and bring them safely back to shore.

John said; ‘Both of them had swallowed a lot of water and were really struggling against the strong current. The son lost his bodyboard and his Dad was trying hard to reach him, without a floatation device he was tiring quickly and if we hadn’t seen them and helped, they would have been in trouble.

We’d urge people to be especially aware of their abilities and the conditions if they are choosing to go into the water at this time.’


  • Phone and Skype interviews are available with RNLI Water Safety Lead, Steve Instance. Please contact the RNLI Press Office on 01202 336789
  • Archive video footage and photos are available upon request or you can visit where you can download further content.

RNLI media contacts

For more information please contact the RNLI Press Office on 01202 336789 or [email protected]

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

For more information please visit the RNLI website or Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. News releases, videos and photos are available on the News Centre.

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.