RNLI Rye Harbour and Hastings join in innovative virtual training

Lifeboats News Release

There are many frustrations associated with Covid-19 but the way forward is not to dwell on these but to work around them and come up with solutions. That is one of the many good things about the RNLI.


Andy Doe RNLI Hasting's Coxswain and Mechanic running the first virtual training session

A joint initiative was launched on Wednesday evening between Hastings and Rye Harbour lifeboat stations, a session of totally Covid-safe virtual online training taking place, 35 crew attending. It was a great success and ideas were shared and many things learnt. It will be the first of many.

Joe Mitchell, ALM (Area Lifesaving Manager) for this area said, ‘Throughout 2020 and now into 2021 we have taken the difficult decision to put a pause on training to ensure that we are keeping all of our volunteers safe during the COVID Pandemic, whilst still responding to service calls. However this decision brings with it other risks. ‘Skill-fade’ is natural and happens whenever anyone is not able to repeat and practise a task. We have to ensure we are dynamic in the way we now offer training to our crews to keep everyone as competent as they can be despite not physically being on the lifeboat. Rye Harbour and Hastings Lifeboat stations have a great working relationship because of their proximity, but it is even better to see that the stations are now coming together to train together ‘virtually’. This sharing of resources, ideas, skills and expertise is invaluable in keeping our 24/7 life-saving service going and is something that I will hope will continue beyond the lifting of restrictions.’

Stuart Clark, RNLI Rye Harbour helm, summed up the feeling of the volunteer shore and lifeboat crew who participated afterwards: ‘It was an excellent training session on Wednesday night with our flank station Hastings, which, it is clear, holds Rye Harbour Lifeboat Station in the very highest regard (a reciprocated feeling). We were able to share information and ideas from our experiences of the last twelve months in the hope that we can minimise ‘skill-fade’ during the current lockdown to ensure that we are as safe as possible on service calls before we are able to resume proper training later in the year. Andy Doe, coxswain and mechanic at Hastings presented the session and gave us all some pertinent reminders of the basics and some links to some more in-depth resources. A loose plan was put in place to continue weekly Teams meetings, hosting and presentation duties being shared by both stations, sharing local knowledge, best practice, virtual tours of stations and resources.’

Little did anyone know a year ago that Teams would play such a vital rôle in training for the future.

Andy Doe commented, ‘Our lifeboats have remained on service throughout the pandemic, and we are committed to providing a life-saving service at sea throughout 2021. Keeping our crews distanced is a vital part of this mission, because one positive COVID test could force an entire crew to isolate, taking a boat off-service for two weeks.

Lockdowns present a real challenge for volunteer lifeboat crews because we depend on regular training to keep everybody safe while working effectively. Some of what we do is very physical, and online training will never completely replace exercises on boats, but it has its advantages too. Joining our flank stations for training gives us the opportunity to learn from a broader range of experiences, and to share ideas and knowledge between stations without leaving our local area. It also allows crew members to participate in regular training without having to arrange care for children or vulnerable relatives. I look forward to further sessions which will be presented by both stations.’

These sessions go a long way to ensure that the high-class professional training for which the RNLI is known around the world continues, turning volunteers into lifesavers who can carry on Saving lives at Sea. Future sessions will include, the D class and its equipment, local knowledge exchange and Cas Care amongst other topics.

RNLI Andy Doe

Virtual training on Teams

RNLI Clark

Stuart Clark, RNLI Rye Harbour helm attending the training virtually

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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