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Lifeboat crew training

Turning our volunteers into lifesavers.

Lifeboat crew training in sea survival pool

Photo: Nathan Williams

Lifeboat crew self-righting a D class lifeboat in RNLI College’s wave tank

Our crews are prepared to drop everything and risk their lives to save others at a moment's notice.

Their lifesaving work is essential, often difficult and sometimes dangerous. And with only 1 in 10 volunteers joining the RNLI from a professional maritime occupation, training is especially important.

That’s why we provide our crew members with first-class training, equipment, guidance and support..

Our lifeboat crews train together every week, at sea and ashore.

Weekly RNLI training exercises focus on teamwork, technical competence and safe operating procedures covering everything from boat-handling, search and rescue, and navigation, to radar training, radio communications and casualty care.

Crews also practise rescue scenarios involving other emergency services such as the Coastguard and fire and rescue services.

Tynemouth RNLI training exercise with the Coastguard rescue helicopter

Every crew member follows a structured programme of competence-based training and assessment. This covers an agreed range of skills and competencies necessary to complete particular tasks. They also undertake operational training, designed to help them meet required fitness standards.

Crew training is a continuous process and the learning never stops.

Trainee crew

Each trainee crew member follows a crew development plan in which they learn:

  • the roles and responsibilities at the lifeboat station
  • how to use and look after their personal protective equipment
  • the layout of their station’s lifeboat and how to use the equipment onboard
  • how to work with ropes safely.

After 6 months of regular training, and getting to know and work with the crew, trainees may, depending on their progress, attend the Crew Emergency Procedures course at RNLI College in Poole, Dorset.

After completing their 12-month probationary period and assessments, trainees become fully fledged crew members. Crew training continues at the station supported by specialist courses run by trainers at RNLI College or via our mobile training units.

RNLI College is the home of lifeboat crew training. We deliver more than 40 different specialist courses at the RNLI College each year.

Crews train using our first-class facilities, which include well-equipped training rooms, a learning resources centre, live-engine workshops and a state-of-the-art Sea Survival Centre – featuring a wave tank and lifeboat bridge simulator.

The Sea Survival Centre gives crew members practical experience in sea safety and survival techniques. In the wave tank, crews experience simulated real-life conditions including darkness, thunder, lightning and rain.

Training at RNLI College  includes taught workshops and courses, and uses learner-centred activities and distance-learning materials – all designed to support crew members' competence-based training.

Mudeford lifeboat crew members taking part in an RNLI casualty care training exercise

Above image: Casualty care training takes place in a realistic training environment. 

We recognise that crew have other job and family commitments, and that it’s not always possible to attend training courses at RNLI College.

RNLI mobile training units mean we can deliver vital localised training on the coast, at a time to suit the crew.

Courses include:

  • Radar and Electronic Navigation Aids
  • Search and Rescue
  • Boathandling and Seamanship
  • Search and Rescue Radio Operators Certificate
  • Long Range Certificate
  • Casualty Care for Lifeboat Crews.


We are very grateful for all the support we get, without which lifeboat crew training would not be possible.