Friday, August 22 - RNLI issues Bank Holiday beach safety advice

PUBLISHED: 10:46 22 August 2008 | UPDATED: 09:32 10 June 2010

COME or shine, the August bank holiday is one of the busiest weekends of the year for the RNLI's volunteer lifeboat crew members and lifeguards.

COME or shine, the August bank holiday is one of the busiest weekends of the year for the RNLI's volunteer lifeboat crew members and lifeguards.

This year, despite renewed strike action by HM Coastguard members, it will be business as usual for the charity's lifeboat crews and lifeguards.

Last August bank holiday weekend, the RNLI launched lifeboats 230 times to those in danger at sea, while RNLI lifeguards responded to 819 incidents on busy beaches.

This year, the charity's crews and lifeguards are preparing for another busy time despite further HM Coastguard strike action. The RNLI lifesaving charity is independent of the Government and HM Coastguard and is operating normally.

RNLI cief eecutive Andrew Freemantle CBE is concerned that the strike action could affect lifeboat launching:

"Anything that causes a break in the communications chain between those requiring assistance at sea, HM Coastguard and the rescue resources - in our case RNLI lifeboats - could potentially put lives at risk. Therefore we are monitoring the situation closely and liaising with the coastguard over their contingency plans. The RNLI responds to 9 out of 10 maritime emergency calls requiring lifeboats and, in the light of continuing industrial action, and to minimise the potential effect of any delay in emergency communication, the RNLI is reviewing its options regarding launching its lifeboats to maritime emergencies."

Freemantle is also keen to ensure that the public are clear that RNLI lifeboats and lifeguards will not be on strike this weekend:

'There is still some confusion in the minds of the public over the respective roles of the RNLI and the castguard. The RNLI's charitable UK lifeboat service is provided entirely through the public's generosity, unlike the Coastguard which is government-funded. If people think our lifeboat crews are part of the strike then there is a real possibility that they will not support our charity in the future.'

As the weekend approaches, following recent tragic incidents around the coast, RNLI ntional bach sfety mnager Steve Wills is concerned that the public are still not taking safety warnings seriously enough:

"Too many families and friends have had to face the harrowing task of coming to terms with the loss of a loved one on the coast this summer, some of these could have been avoided if people took safety seriously; but RNLI research shows that less than ten per cent of people consider safety when choosing a beach to swim at.

"The unpredictable nature of the weather is unlikely to deter avid beach-goers and sea-farers from going to the beach and using the water this weekend so it's even more important that they swim at lifeguarded beaches. We are also very concerned at the increasing numbers of people tombstoning, especially when under the influence of alcohol. We don't recommend tombstoning under any circumstances, but our advice is if you do is to always check the depth first and never jump or dive if you are unsure of what's under the surface of the water. It's important to remember that the depth of the water can alter quickly with a changing tide.

"The August bank holiday weekend is always a busy one for us. If you're on the coast or at sea please make safety a priority, follow our safety tips and have a great weekend."

Beach safety tips:

1.Always swim at a lifeguarded beach and between the red and yellow flags

2.Never swim under the influence of alcohol or drugs

3.Always supervise children and never let them play in the water alone

4.If you get into trouble, stick your hand in the air and shout for help

5.If you see someone else in trouble, tell a lifeguard. If you can't see a lifeguard, call 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard

Sea Safety tips:

1.Wear a lifejacket

2.Check your engine and fuel

3.Tell others where you are going

4.Carry some means of calling for help

5.Keep an eye on weather and tides

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