RNLI lifeguards will patrol five beaches on the Causeway Coast during this year’s Easter holidays.
Starting on Good Friday, lifeguards will be operating from Beach Lifeguard Units on Benone Strand, Portstewart Strand, East and West Strands in Portrush and Whiterocks.
The lifeguards will be on duty from 11am to 7pm starting on Good Friday, 25 March and continuing daily to Monday 4 April.
Weekend cover on the Causeway Coast and Tyrella Beach in County Down will then commence on Saturday 30 April and continue up to the beginning of the peak Summer season when 10 beaches on the Causeway Coast and in County Down will commence daily cover from Monday 13 June through to Sunday 4 September.
The new season arrives following a period of intensive work for the lifeguard management team to train the lifeguards and prepare the seasonal equipment.
With Easter falling earlier than usual this year, Mike Grocott, RNLI Lifeguard Manager is reminding anyone planning a visit to the beach to remember that it is still cold and to go prepared.
‘Easter is early and the beaches and the water are still very cold. Please bear this in mind and come dressed for the weather conditions to ensure your visit is both safe and enjoyable.’
Mr Grocott said pre-season preparations had gone well and the lifeguards were now looking forward to putting their training to use:
‘Working alongside our colleagues in the Causeway Coast and Glens District Council, the RNLI is delighted to be back on five of our lifeguarded beaches for the Easter season. Our lifeguards have been busy in the last month undergoing intensive training to be ready for Easter. This year, for the first time, we welcomed our lifeguarding colleagues from Wales and the north of England to share their lifeguarding experiences and to train on our beaches on the north coast.
‘With the training complete, our lifeguards are looking forward to being back on patrol and to putting their skills into action. We would encourage visitors to the beach in the coming days to speak to our lifeguards, ask for safety advice, and most importantly call on them should they find themselves in difficulty’.
The RNLI’s advice for anyone planning a trip to the beach is to respect the water, check weather and tide times before you go and if planning to go into the water, swim at a lifeguarded beach, between the red and yellow flags. Avoid using inflatables in strong winds or rough seas.
If you get into trouble, stick your hand in the air and shout for help and if you see someone else in trouble, tell a lifeguard. If you can’t see a lifeguard, call 909 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard.
Last year, lifeguards in Northern Ireland responded to 182 incidents coming to the aid of 218 people. Incidents ranged from dealing with stings, slips and trips to major first aid incidents as well as rescues in the water.
One incident included a life saved, while there were eight cases during which 11 people were rescued and 36 instances which saw the lifeguards assist 68 people. Nine people were treated in major casualty care incidents including body boarders, paddle boarders and kite surfers while 95 people were assisted with minor first aid. The lifeguards were also involved in four searches last year.
Despite a wet summer figures show that 345,027 people visited the 10 beaches last year. Some 27,043 of those visitors took to the water while 9,975 were using surf or other craft.
There were a number of unusual incidents to deal with last year summer too, including responding to a sand dune fire, red flagging beaches in a severe thunder and lightning storm and dealing with the discovery of mortar bombs.