Low-cost equipment

We’ve started an exciting innovation project to design sustainable and low-cost rescue equipment for low- and middle-income countries. We’re working with Bournemouth University and other partners on kit that can be made using materials and manufacturing skills locally.
Plastic containers used as swimming floats and marker buoys on Zanzibar

Photo: RNLI / Mike Lavis

Plastic containers used as swimming floats and marker buoys on Zanzibar

The equipment project isn’t the only way to take a sustainable approach to tackling global drowning. As programmes are developed and refined, the International Team builds a bank of ideas to test and improve on their next deployments, using input from local partners. Those partners then gain skills needed to train and develop their own lifesavers, or deliver education sessions, for the long term.

Read the story of how the project came about or explore the different items of kit below.

Throw bags are a vital piece of rescue equipment, which enable the user to avoid entering the water when needing to assist or even rescue a casualty. Dan Navarro (pictured below), a candidate from the Philippines who attended the RNLI’s 2012 Future Leaders in Lifesaving programme, decided to find a sustainable, locally sourced alternative to the expensive bags available from the UK. The first batches of throw bags are already in the hands of people who have trained with the RNLI - lifesavers from across the Philippines now have basic rescue equipment for their own communities.

Dan Navarro (right) with all the materials needed to make a throw bag in the Philippines

In Bangladesh, Rashed Alam, a full-time supervisor of the SeaSafe lifeguards at Cox’s Bazar, was also quick to find a cheaper alternative throw bag. Thanks to Rashed, there’s a local craftsman who’s hand-sewn around 40 bags. At the moment the process is small-scale and time-consuming, but it’s already making a difference. The locally made bags have been given to the Bangladeshi Fire Service and Civil Defence, and were used when RNLI flood trainers went out to work with them in November 2014. And they’re still being developed and improved today.

In basic terms, a rescue tube is a simple piece of shaped foam with webbing running through it, a length of rope and a clip. It can be strapped around an unconscious casualty, keeping them afloat and allowing deep-water resuscitation to be performed. The RNLI has worked with Bournemouth University on a similar belt design, using closed cell foam. (Pictured are some early prototypes developed with lifesavers during a visit to Bangladesh.)

Early prototypes  in Bangladesh for a sustainable rescue tube made from linked fishing floats