RNLI urges coastal visitors to stay safe following Kent lifeguards busy summer
With the school half term starting in Kent next week the RNLI is urging people visiting the county’s coast to take extra care in the coming months.
Despite the coronavirus pandemic and the challenges posed by lockdown restrictions earlier in the year, the RNLI has worked alongside Thanet District Council to provide a lifeguard service on seven beaches in Kent this summer.
Those beaches saw a significant increase in visitors over the summer as people chose to stay at home and holiday in the UK due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The large crowds presented big challenges for the lifeguards, who also embraced new safety precautions to keep themselves and the public protected from the Covid-19 virus. This meant wearing PPE, the enhanced cleaning of equipment and maintaining a two metre distance from others.
Nevertheless, the lifeguards were able to respond to numerous incidents in the water, provided casualty care for minor and major medical incidents, helped find lost children and provide vital safety advice and guidance which prevented more incidents occurring.
Initial figures for 2020 show 44 people were rescued by RNLI lifeguards by the harbour arm at Ramsgate this summer, with many of them caught in the strong rip current that builds up in the area. In comparison, last year there were two rescues at the same spot. Figures were also up for Margate, where this year lifeguards used a Rescue Water Craft (jetski) to rescue 25 people compared to nine in 2019.
In one of many noteable incidents during the season, seventeen year old RNLI lifeguard Mowgli Palmer, based on Ramsgate Main Beach, rescued three children who got into difficulty swimming off the Kent coast on the same day: https://rnli.org/news-and-media/2020/july/17/praise-for-courageous-rnli-lifeguard-who-rescued-three-children-off-kent-coast
During another particularly busy spell lifeguards, also at Ramsgate Main Beach, rescued 24 people in one day – an unprecendented number.
On the same weekend, lifeguards at Botany Bay Beach used their world-class training to perform a successful CPR on a six year old girl and rescue a man in his 50s who was out of his depth and being bashed against the chalk sea stack: https://rnli.org/news-and-media/2020/august/05/kent-rnli-lifeguards-rescue-25-and-resuscitate-a-six-year-old-girl
RNLI Lifeguard Supervisor Ellie Hopper said the charity’s lifeguards had experienced an incredibly busy summer, but responded brilliantly to the challenge.
‘This was a really unusual summer for our lifeguards in Kent,’ said RNLI Lifeguard Supervisor Ellie Hopper. ‘Not only was training and recruitment affected by the coronavirus restrictions, but the lifeguards then had to keep unprecendented numbers of people safe, at the same time as wearing PPE equipment to prevent the spread of the virus’.
‘We are incredibly proud of what they have achieved this year, including several rescues undertaken alongside the lifeboat crews at Margate and Ramsgate,’ added Ellie.
Cllr Rick Everitt, Leader of Thanet District Council, said: ‘This summer was like no other. The pandemic and easing of Government restrictions had a huge impact on coastal resorts, and Thanet was no exception.
Together with the RNLI and other key agencies, we worked together to introduce a new Beach Management Plan which put extra resources in place to prepare for more people visiting our coastline.
This included forming essential links with the RNLI as part of their water safety programme, as well as placing an additional 200 bins along the coast and a new coastal supervisor on-duty throughout hot weather spells.
We’re extremely grateful for the RNLI’s support as part of this plan, as it was integral in helping keep our beaches and swimmers as safe as possible’.
With the lifeguard season on Kent’s beaches ending last month, the RNLI is urging visitors to take extra care when visiting the coast, particularly during the school holidays.
Gabbi Simmonds, RNLI Water Safety Education Manager for the South East, said even activities like walking a dog along the coast can quickly go wrong if precautions aren’t taken beforehand.
‘Around 130 people die around the UK coast every year and half of those who drown never even intended to enter the water,’ explained Gabbi.
‘We would urge anyone heading to a beach to do some research before their visit into the local conditions, check the weather and tide timetables as it is easy to get cut off by the tide as it turns and take a means of communication with them.
Take note of the safety signage at the entrance, go with a friend or tell someone on the shore where you’re going, and if you are planning to undertake an activity such as open water swimming then always be aware of the conditions, wear a bright hat, take a tow float and know your own capabilities in the water’.
People walking dogs at the coast during the autumn and winter can unexpectedly find themselves in danger. During 2017 there were 91 lifeboat launches to dog walking incidents.
‘If you are walking a dog on the coast please make sure you keep them on a lead if you are close to cliff edges, or fast flowing rivers and if your dog goes into the water, or gets stuck in mud, don’t go after it,’ Gabbi added.
‘The dog will most probably get out by itself and if you are worried for its safety don’t hesitate to phone 999 and ask for the Coastguard. We would far rather launch to save a dog than face the tragedy of an owner drowning while attempting a rescue’.
Note to Editors:
RNLI lifeguards operated on seven beaches in Kent this summer: Minnis Bay, Margate Main, Botany Bay, Joss Bay, Stone Bay, Broadstairs (Viking Bay) and Ramsgate Main Beach.
RNLI lifeboat crews have been operating throughout the pandemic and continue to be on call 24/7 ready to respond to emergencies when their pager goes off.
If you’re planning a visit to a beach or the coast please follow this safety advice:
§ Have a plan - check the weather forecast, tide times and read local hazard signage
§ Keep a close eye on your family – on the beach and in the water
§ Don’t allow your family to swim alone
§ Don’t use inflatables
§ If you fall into the water unexpectedly, FLOAT TO LIVE. Fight your instinct to thrash around, lean back, extend your arms and legs, and float
§ In an emergency dial 999, and ask for the Coastguard
RNLI Media Contacts:
Paul Dunt, RNLI Regional Media Officer, London and South East, firstname.lastname@example.org, 07785 296252
Julie Rainey, RNLI Regional Media Manager, London and South East,
Julie_rainey@rnli.org.uk (07827) 358256
For enquiries outside normal business hours, contact the RNLI duty press officer on 01202 336789
For more information on the RNLI please visit rnli.org. News releases and other media resources, including RSS feeds, downloadable photos and video, are available at the RNLI News Centre rnli.org/news-and-media.
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.