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Baltimore ALB and ILB out on the sea

What it takes to launch a lifeboat

Right now, RNLI lifesavers are ready to race to the rescue.

They don’t know who they will be helping. Nor what to expect at the end of the shout. All they know is that someone is in need of their help.

But before they can even launch, a lot has to happen. This is what it takes to launch a lifeboat.

Swanage D Class Lifeboat launching in the water

Photo: RNLI/Nigel Millard

The call to rescue comes in

Someone is in desperate need of rescue. Their life is in danger. An emergency call is made to 999 and the coastguard are alerted. A decision is then made: an RNLI lifeboat needs to be launched as soon as possible. The call to rescue goes out. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, RNLI volunteers across the UK and Ireland are ready to answer that call.

A person in the water wearing a life jacket holding a lit flare

Photo: RNLI/Nigel Millard

The crew are paged

The coastguard contact the lifeboat station’s Lifeboat Operations Manager (LOM) or Launch Authority (LA). If a launch is agreed, the coastguard will then page the crew. Volunteers will drop everything – work, family, friends – to run to the rescue.

As the volunteers quickly make their way to the station, so does the LOM or LA, who will begin collecting as much information as possible about the shout. From what they know, they and the helm or coxswain of the lifeboat will assemble their crew.


The lifeboat is prepared

While the lifeboat crew quickly change into their kit, the Shore Crew prepare the lifeboat. It’s their job to ensure the lifeboat is ready to go as soon as the crew are. From opening station doors and clearing the slipway, to starting winches and getting the tractor ready. There are countless tasks that must be done quickly and efficiently. Just like the crew, they have put in countless hours of training to be ready for this moment.

Finally, the Lifeboat Crew are able to launch. All the hours spent training, the time spent practicing boat handling and using the equipment, is all about to be put into use.

It takes a lot of people to be able to launch a lifeboat. But there’s one person missing from this chain of events – You.

Lifeboat being lifted from the water

Photo: RNLI/Nigel Millard

Your support is vital to lifesaving

Our volunteer lifesavers wouldn’t be able to launch without your support. Every training session, every piece of kit, every lifeboat, has been funded by donations from people like you. Donations powered this launch. Your kindness could help power the next.

Will you donate today to ensure that our crews can keep saving lives at sea?