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Irish Coast Guard & RNLI Issue Water Safety Appeal for Christmas & New Year

23rd December 2020
Top safety tips have been issued by the Coast Guard and the RNLI for open water swimming Top safety tips have been issued by the Coast Guard and the RNLI for open water swimming

The RNLI and the Coast Guard are appealing to the public to exercise caution when participating in any activity on and near the water during the Christmas and New Year period and at all times to be mindful of the restrictions in place to deal with the COVID pandemic. Many traditional Christmas and New Year swims which ordinarily had safety measures in place have been cancelled. Accordingly, anybody planning such activity should check up to date guidance and ensure that they have made appropriate safety arrangements.

The second half of 2020 saw a significant increase in water-based incidents placing extra demands on Search and Rescue providers including Coast Guard and RNLI volunteer crews. Mindful of the increased levels of participation in open water swimming both organisations are highlighting the risks of suffering cold water shock, which is a very real danger for anyone entering water which is 15°C or below. Average sea temperature around Ireland at this time of year are just 6-10°C. This can pose a risk of hypothermia, even for the most experienced of open water swimmers.

The top safety tips from the Coast Guard and the RNLI for open water swimming are:

  • Always check the weather forecast and understand the local effects of wind, tides and currents. 
  • Never swim alone and if possible, have somebody ashore who is familiar with your plans and can observe your progress.
  • Only swim in sheltered areas with which you are familiar and swim parallel to the shore.
  • Stay within your depth – know your limits including how long to stay in the water
  • Ensure that you are visible from the shore. Wear a brightly coloured swim cap or use a tow float to increase your visibility in the water.
  • Wearing a wetsuit is advisable to help stay warm.
  • Acclimatise to cold water slowly to reduce the risk of cold-water shock.
  • Get warmed up afterwards. Wrap up well in extra layers of clothing
  • If in doubt, don’t go out!
  • Tell someone else where you’re going and when you’ll be back.

As the year draws to a close, thanks have been paid to the men and women involved in search and rescue for their incredible service throughout the year. Volunteers have been called out to help at all hours of the day and night and they have been on the frontline of saving lives and keeping people safe.

Irish Coast Guard, Head of Operations Gerard O’Flynn said: ‘We wish to say a special thank you to everybody involved in SAR for their commitment and service in these extraordinary times with a special thank you to the volunteer members of the rescue services.

He added: People love to get out and about over the Christmas and New Year period. For those who have an opportunity to go on coastal walks always remember to Stay Back Stay High Stay Dry – and this year please be especially mindful of Covid related restrictions. Open water swimming this time of the year is only for experienced participants and never ever swim alone.’

RNLI Water Safety Lead Kevin Rahill added: ‘RNLI and Coast Guard volunteers have played an enormous role this year in keeping people safe as they took to the water in greater numbers. We wish to thank everyone involved in search and rescue and their families and employers who support our volunteers.

‘No one goes into the water in the expectation of needing to be rescued but we are asking anyone considering going for a swim to understand the dangers and not take unnecessary risks so they can have a good time, safely. It is important to respect the water and there are a number of things you can do to help ensure you have an enjoyable and safe time such as not swimming alone, staying in your depth and knowing how to warm up properly afterwards, which sounds obvious but is crucial to avoid any delayed effects of the cold and hypothermia.’

Afloat.ie Team

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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.

FAQs

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.

© Afloat 2020

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