Charity predicts busy period as RNLI lifeguards prepare for a summer of ‘Staycation'
Last year, RNLI lifeguards in the north west aided more people than anywhere else in the UK. They attended 846 incidents and aided 9,624 people. Many of those who were rescued were simply out enjoying a walk and had unexpectedly got into trouble.
There are bigger than normal tides expected over the coming weekend and into next week and the RNLI has issued a plea to the public to be extra cautious. The combination of increased numbers of people, the potential easing of restrictions and the school holiday could potentially put a huge amount of pressure on the RNLI’s volunteer crews.
The RNLI has been working with partners behind the scenes through the challenges of lockdown to recruit, train and prepare their lifeguards for what is expected to be another busy summer on UK beaches.
RNLI lifeguards are preparing to set up patrols on the Wirral and Sefton this weekend (27 March). From Saturday, lifeguards will be on duty every day during the Easter break and then subsequently every weekend at: West Kirby, Moreton, Harrison Drive (which includes part of Leasowe Bay), The Plateaux, New Brighton Perch Rock, Formby, Ainsale and Southport.
The RNLI already provides at 365 days a year service at Crosby.
RNLI Water Safety Lead Chris Cousens says:
‘RNLI lifeboats around the north west coast are ready to respond to emergency situations and many of our lifeguards will be returning to their posts, but we are urging people to think very carefully about safety and not putting any additional pressure on the RNLI charity during these challenging times.
‘We have seen an increased number of call outs to people using the coast for our daily exercise and becoming cut off by the tide. There have been a high number of incidents off the north west coast and we’d urge people to think carefully before setting off on a coastal walk.’
It has been a busy period for West Kirby RNLI who responded to multiple calls for assistance recently on a sunny Spring day last month. The RNLI crew was called out in quick succession to assist a small party of walkers on Middle Hilbre and then in response to a separate call concerning people in the water by Little Eye. In the same month, Hoylake RNLI hovercraft several people cut off by the incoming tide on the Wirral coast. Some had reportedly entered the water in Leasowe Bay, crossing the flooding channel to reach the sea wall.
‘The tide comes in and out twice in each 24 hour period, and while tide times can be accurately predicted, they vary at each location and change each day. A beach or coastal area may appear a safe place for a walk, but incoming tide can quickly leave you stranded. On bigger tides like we will see in the coming days, places will be cut off by the tide quicker than normal and places usually unaffected by the tide may also be cut off.
‘That’s why checking the weather and tides using a trusted online source, such as magicseaweed.com, the BBC weather or a tidal prediction app before setting off on any trip is essential. However, we realise that people setting out on a walk may not have that understanding of what the tide time means to them. For this reason we were keen to share time-lapse footage to clearly illustrate how sandbanks and gullies can very quickly become flooded by the tide.’
Preparing for the season in a COVID environment has presented its own challenges for the RNLI.
Ryan Jennings, RNLI Lead Lifeguard Supervisor for the Wirral, says:
‘We are delighted to be able to get our service up and running as usual this year, despite the obvious challenge the pandemic has brought. Much of our training has happened remotely, but we’ve been able to familiarise our guards with the beaches in line with government guidance. Operating within this new environment has meant an increase in training to ensure the safety of our guards and of those who they rescue.’
The RNLI is urging anyone choosing to visit the coast to make sure they keep themselves and their families safe by following beach safety advice along with the government’s advice on travel and social distancing:
Visit a lifeguarded beach where possible and swim between the red and yellow flags - we have a number of patrolled beaches around the coast from the Easter holidays – find your nearest at rnli.org.uk/lifeguardedbeaches
Wherever you are, check the weather forecast, tide times and read local hazard signage to understand local risks
If you fall into the water unexpectedly, FLOAT TO LIVE. Fight your instinct to thrash around, lean back, extend your arms and legs, and Float.
In an emergency dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard.
More info: https://rnli.org/safety/know-the-risks/tides