RNLI lifeguards are busy on the beaches in Northern Ireland despite the forecast
It might be a dull or miserable day but RNLI lifeguards are still working hard on beaches along the Causeway Coast and County Down to keep people safe.
For beaches along the Causeway Coast and County Down this weekend’s forecast is dull with rain and strong winds. RNLI lifeguards are on beaches for 8 hours, 7 days a week. So, what do RNLI lifeguards do when their beaches are quiet?
Stuart Montgomery, Lifeguard Supervisor for the County Down area, says: ‘Lifeguards love bad weather, sometimes, because it gives them a chance to really train and practice their skills in difficult conditions, which, let's face it, is most of the time. Everything else still has to happen, so they might as well be in their wetsuits.’
RNLI Lifeguards keep beachgoers safe by spotting the dangers and preventing accidents before they happen, as well as responding instantly if they occur.
Peter, a senior lifeguard for the County Down area, expresses the importance of staying vigilant when its quiet on the beach, saying: ‘When the beach isn't busy, or when it rains - as its prone to do here in County Down - we keep ourselves occupied by training on the equipment such as the rescue boards and rescue water craft. Keeping on our toes when it's quiet is important, so we like to run first aid scenarios so we can be ready for the next situation.’
Ola, a lifeguard on the Causeway Coast, also practices first aid, saying: ‘When it's a little rainy on the beach, which is quite often, I like to keep up with my knowledge of the responder bag in case anyone requires first aid. Quiet days are perfect for rescue board or tube training, as there are less people in the water so you can focus more on improving your own lifesaving skills.
If you’re coming to the beach on a rainy day, we might be in the truck to stay dry and warm, but don't worry, we've still got our eyes on the water!’
Peter adds: ‘No one likes being cooped up in the beach unit or patrol truck either, even in the rain, so getting out for a walk or a run is great for clearing the head and exercise keeps us healthy for our routine fitness checks.’
RNLI lifeguards are qualified in lifesaving and casualty care as well as being highly trained and fit. They maintain a level of fitness, which allows them to swim 200m in under 3½ minutes and run 200m on sand in under 40 seconds.
As well as equipment and fitness training for the next busy day on the beach, RNLI lifeguards keep a close eye on sea conditions.
When the weather is bad some areas that are usually safe for swimming become red flagged. The red flags mean that there is danger, possibly due to strong tides and rip currents. Never enter the water when a red flag is flying.
Similarly, in poor conditions, you might see an orange windsock flying. This windsock indicates that there are offshore or strong winds.
Conard McCullagh, Lifeguard Supervisor for the Causeway Coast, explains: 'It is important that people check the weather forecast and surf report before heading out into the water. Our lifeguards closely monitor the conditions of the sea to make sure that when people go swimming, they are swimming in a safe area.
We have offshore winds coming in this weekend, so remember, if you find yourself in difficulty in the water, float to live. Lean back, extend your arms and legs, and then raise your hand or call for help.’
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