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Portrush Lifeboat Helm Trained To Help With Flood Rescue

23rd February 2014
Portrush Lifeboat Helm Trained To Help With Flood Rescue

#RNLI - Portrush RNLI volunteer Karl O’Neill is becoming one of the RNLI's all-rounders, for as well as being helm for the Portrush inshore lifeboat and senior RNLI lifeguard, he is now a part of the lifesaving charity's Flood Rescue Team (FRT).

The FRT is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to deploy to flooding events in the UK, Ireland and abroad for search and rescue (SAR) operations.

The team comprises RNLI members from across the network who have been specially trained for the risks involved when working in or around fast moving flood water. The team are all either serving volunteer lifeboat crew or operational RNLI staff who volunteer to be part of the team.

As part of his training, O'Neill had to go to Loch Etive, near Oban in Scotland, for a period of four days' intensive training. The training exercises are designed to ensure that the team are fully prepared for dangerous and unpredictable flood waters, which differ greatly from the sea environment.

These exercises allow the volunteers to practise their skills in fast-flowing water, simulating the conditions they could face in a real life situation.

"It was a great experience to be trained for this type of emergency and has equipped me to respond in an emergency when the call comes," said O'Neill on his return to station.

"The training I had already received from the RNLI had given me a good foundation already, but the flood water training was very different to being in the open sea."

Lifeboat operations manager Robin Cardwell added that "the team at Portrush are very proud of Karl in terms of this training. He will be a great asset to any of the FR Teams when called to respond."

Karl O'Neill's family has a long association with Portrush Lifeboat Station, as his grandfather was a mechanic and cox, his uncle Anthony Chambers is the present mechanic and RNLI Bronze Medal awardee, and his cousin Jason Chambers is also on crew.

In other Portrush news, O'Neill and his inshore lifeboat crew got their first service of 2014 last Sunday (16 February) just after their usual training session, when they were called to the assistance of two surfers who got into difficulties off Portstewart Strand.

The weather was unusually mild for a Sunday in February and perfect conditions for surfing. However, the surfers were caught in strong currents and were swept out to sea.

The Inshore lifeboat quickly located the first surfer and got him on board. They then found the other surfer and, after getting him on board, transported both surfers back to the beach.

"It was a beautiful day for surfing on the North Coast but it goes to show that everyone needs to be mindful about sea safety," said Cardwell.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy is a contributor covering all things on the water, from boating and wildlife to science and business

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Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) in Ireland Information

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is a charity to save lives at sea in the waters of UK and Ireland. Funded principally by legacies and donations, the RNLI operates a fleet of lifeboats, crewed by volunteers, based at a range of coastal and inland waters stations. Working closely with UK and Ireland Coastguards, RNLI crews are available to launch at short notice to assist people and vessels in difficulties.

RNLI was founded in 1824 and is based in Poole, Dorset. The organisation raised €210m in funds in 2019, spending €200m on lifesaving activities and water safety education. RNLI also provides a beach lifeguard service in the UK and has recently developed an International drowning prevention strategy, partnering with other organisations and governments to make drowning prevention a global priority.

Irish Lifeboat Stations

There are 46 lifeboat stations on the island of Ireland, with an operational base in Swords, Co Dublin. Irish RNLI crews are tasked through a paging system instigated by the Irish Coast Guard which can task a range of rescue resources depending on the nature of the emergency.

Famous Irish Lifeboat Rescues

Irish Lifeboats have participated in many rescues, perhaps the most famous of which was the rescue of the crew of the Daunt Rock lightship off Cork Harbour by the Ballycotton lifeboat in 1936. Spending almost 50 hours at sea, the lifeboat stood by the drifting lightship until the proximity to the Daunt Rock forced the coxswain to get alongside and successfully rescue the lightship's crew.

32 Irish lifeboat crew have been lost in rescue missions, including the 15 crew of the Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire) lifeboat which capsized while attempting to rescue the crew of the SS Palme on Christmas Eve 1895.


While the number of callouts to lifeboat stations varies from year to year, Howth Lifeboat station has aggregated more 'shouts' in recent years than other stations, averaging just over 60 a year.

Stations with an offshore lifeboat have a full-time mechanic, while some have a full-time coxswain. However, most lifeboat crews are volunteers.

There are 46 lifeboat stations on the island of Ireland

32 Irish lifeboat crew have been lost in rescue missions, including the 15 crew of the Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire) lifeboat which capsized while attempting to rescue the crew of the SS Palme on Christmas Eve 1895

In 2019, 8,941 lifeboat launches saved 342 lives across the RNLI fleet.

The Irish fleet is a mixture of inshore and all-weather (offshore) craft. The offshore lifeboats, which range from 17m to 12m in length are either moored afloat, launched down a slipway or are towed into the sea on a trailer and launched. The inshore boats are either rigid or non-rigid inflatables.

The Irish Coast Guard in the Republic of Ireland or the UK Coastguard in Northern Ireland task lifeboats when an emergency call is received, through any of the recognised systems. These include 999/112 phone calls, Mayday/PanPan calls on VHF, a signal from an emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) or distress signals.

The Irish Coast Guard is the government agency responsible for the response to, and co-ordination of, maritime accidents which require search and rescue operations. To carry out their task the Coast Guard calls on their own resources – Coast Guard units manned by volunteers and contracted helicopters, as well as "declared resources" - RNLI lifeboats and crews. While lifeboats conduct the operation, the coordination is provided by the Coast Guard.

A lifeboat coxswain (pronounced cox'n) is the skipper or master of the lifeboat.

RNLI Lifeboat crews are required to follow a particular development plan that covers a pre-agreed range of skills necessary to complete particular tasks. These skills and tasks form part of the competence-based training that is delivered both locally and at the RNLI's Lifeboat College in Poole, Dorset


While the RNLI is dependent on donations and legacies for funding, they also need volunteer crew and fund-raisers.

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