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RNLI & Irish Water Safety - Living With Covid 19 Guidelines

1st August 2020
RNLI all-weather Achill lifeboat in Co Mayo RNLI all-weather Achill lifeboat in Co Mayo Photo: RNLI

RNLI stations are reporting a busy season as more people stay at home for holidays due to the Covid-19 restrictions.

As The Irish Examiner reports, new standard operating procedures (SOPs) to adhere with Covid-19 public health and safety guidelines have changed the environment and placed extra pressure on crews.

All around the coast, inshore and all-weather RNLI lifeboats are also being scrubbed with extra vigour – right down to disinfection of handsets on marine radios.

“We had to make a very quick shift, and adopt new standard operating procedures early on,” Courtmacsherry coxswain Sean O’Farrell says.

RNLI Wicklow mechanic Brendan CopelandRNLI Wicklow mechanic Brendan Copeland

Crews going to sea with standard RNLI personal protective equipment (PPE) wear surgical masks under helmet visors, along with double sets of gloves.

The new measures extend to alerting crews. Every volunteer who responds to a pager message must stay in their car outside the station, unless and until called.

RNLI Courtmacsherry, Co Cork, coxswain Sean O'FarrellRNLI Courtmacsherry, Co Cork, coxswain Sean O'Farrell

RNLI Dun Laoghaire coxswain Mark McGibneyRNLI Dun Laoghaire coxswain Mark McGibney

“We can’t risk an infection that could affect key staff and volunteers, and close down an entire lifeboat station for two weeks,” O’Farrell adds.

“We’re getting used to it very quickly because we are already a lot busier for this time of year,” his colleague, RNLI Wicklow station mechanic Brendan Copeland says.

Water Safety Ireland chief executive John Leech had warned that as Covid-19 restrictions were lifted and travel plans cancelled, there could be the “greatest number in history” on our waterways. Almost two million people live within five kilometres of the coast.

His deputy, Roger Sweeney, confirms there have already been incidents where people have ignored red flags, hoisted at guarded swimming locations to indicate conditions are too dangerous for swimming.

Read more on The Irish Examiner report here

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
Lorna Siggins

About The Author

Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004) on Irish helicopter search and rescue; and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010).

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RNLI Ireland Information

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts.

The RNLI operates over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and the Channel Islands.

The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824 its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,200 lives.

How many RNLI stations are there in Ireland?

46 stations

The RNLI currently operates from 46 stations in the Republic and Northern Ireland. Different classes of lifeboat are needed for various locations. So RNLI lifeboats are divided into two category types: all-weather and inshore.

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