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RNLI taps into expert knowledge at Bangor University to reduce tidal cut off

Lifeboats News Release

In light of RNLI figures revealing there were 1,425 lifeboat launches to people cut off by the tide across the UK and Ireland between 2017 - 2021, the charity has entered the next stage of a collaboration with Bangor University.

The project is aimed at better understanding people’s knowledge of the tide and researchers are calling for people who have experienced tidal cut off to share their stories.

The collaboration began in 2021, when both parties launched a small-scale survey on social media to understand why people become stranded and often require the RNLI’s help. The results helped to explore why people are getting into trouble and then work on the most effective interventions. A short video was also produced to show how quickly sandbanks become exposed and help illustrate the different states of the tide.

The university has now commissioned a marine social scientist to unpick people’s awareness of tides, with a view to improving tidal knowledge through new public campaigns and education. With the support of an Oceanographer and a Professor of Linguistics, the University are committed to helping to ensure people enjoy our coastline safely, and the charity to ultimately save more lives.

The RNLI is delighted to enter into a more detailed project which it is hoped will shape future safety messaging. The first step will be a UK wide survey with specially devised questions to gain a better knowledge of the level of understanding.

The university are also unpicking RNLI data and speaking with people who have become stranded and explore the reasons they found themselves in difficulty.

Chris Cousens, RNLI Water Safety Lead for Wales said:

‘The RNLI Water Safety team tries to understand the risk of drowning in each region and adapt their education strategy accordingly. In Wales, we have the highest proportion of tidal cut off incidents – with 10 per cent of all our call outs being to people cut off by the tide.

‘Our core message of always check the weather and tides is a complex one as we suspect there is confusion over where to access tidal information, and not knowing how to interpret the beach specific tidal information.

‘We are thrilled to have the input of real professionals with specialism in their fields to unpick people’s understanding and help us properly understand why people are getting into trouble. We look forward to working through the results of the survey and exploring together how we can ensure the safety of those visiting the coast.’

Thora Tenbrink, Professor of Linguistics at Bangor University said:

‘Speaking to people who have been cut off by the tide and rescued by the RNLI has been really enlightening. It is really important to understand what goes on in people’s minds in these crucial moments when potentially life-threatening decisions are being made. Thinking back to the situation, people do remember and readily tell us about their experience which helps us to understand people’s thought processes. Discourse analysis helps us to see the patterns of thought processes. We are pleased to be working with the RNLI in researching attitudes and understanding and identifying how safety messaging could help the charity save more lives.

Dr Liz Morris-Webb, marine social scientist at Bangor University is calling for anyone who has experienced tidal cut off to share their experience to help inform others of the dangers.

She says:

‘An important part of researching how to improve our beach and safety messaging, to reduce the number of people cut off by the tide, is speaking to people who have experienced this personally. We are looking for anyone who has been cut off by the tide in the UK or Ireland to contact us to share their experience and learn from them what information might have helped prevent their incident.’

Anyone able to help is invited to contact Dr Liz Morris-Webb via email [email protected]


Media Contacts

For further information, please contact Danielle Rush, RNLI Media Relations Manager in the North West on 07786 668829 [email protected].


Llandudno West shore and its exposed sandbanks


Llandudno West shore at high tide

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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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.