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RNLI Lifeguards Set to Return for Easter as New Data Shows Record Breaking Summer

11th April 2022

The RNLI has revealed lifeguard statistics from 2021 which show more people than ever visited a lifeguarded beach in Northern Ireland and needed the help of the charity’s lifesavers.

During the season, lifeguard teams located on 11 beaches along the Causeway Coast and in county Down, responded to 330 incidents, coming to the aid of 384 people, one of whom was a life saved. The lifeguards carried out thousands of preventative actions over the summer period which saw an estimated 860,883 visitors.

The latest figures come as RNLI lifeguards train and prepare to return to beaches for the 2022 season.

The range of people and activities lifeguards responded to included paddleboarders, body boarders, swimmers, jet-skiers, those spending time relaxing or walking, quad bikers, kayakers, surfers, paddlers and those on inflatables.

Every year, RNLI lifeguards are involved in carrying out water rescues, administering casualty care, delivering water safety information, and helping to reunite missing children with their families. Over the past few weeks, they have been training and practicing their skills so that they are ready to face what the upcoming season brings.

The RNLI Lifeguard Station at Castlerock Beach in The RNLI Lifeguard Station at Castlerock Beach in County Derry

The RNLI will carry out its usual lifeguard service this year across Northern Ireland in its standard phased approach. The first set of beaches will go on service from this Good Friday, 15 April, for the Easter holidays. Lifeguards will patrol beaches at Benone, Portrush East Strand, Portrush West Strand, Whiterocks and Ballycastle from 11am to 7pm and Portstewart from 10am-6pm daily until Sunday 24 April.

A weekend service on these beaches will commence on Saturday 30 April and will run until the peak daily season starts on Saturday 25 June. Meanwhile, a weekend service on Tyrella Beach in county Down will start from 10am to 6pm on Saturday 30 April. 

Speaking ahead of the Easter lifeguard service commencing, Karl O’Neill, RNLI Lead Lifeguard Supervisor said: ‘RNLI lifeguards are at the forefront of the charity’s lifesaving work, as they keep beach visitors safe across the Causeway Coast and in county Down each year. Last year’s figures show the importance of our lifeguards and what they do for the public. We are expecting coastal areas to be just as busy in the summer season ahead.

‘The RNLI has been working closely with partners and local communities to ensure beaches and lifeguard units are ready and equipped, and that lifeguard training has been performed seamlessly.

‘Pre-season preparations have gone well, and our lifeguards are ready to get back on to the beaches and do what they do best; offering preventative safety advice to visitors and rescuing those in difficulty in the water or on the beach itself.

‘However, it is important to remember that our lifeguards can’t be everywhere. Our lifeguards will be supported by the charity’s 24/7 lifeboat service and water safety work, but we urge anyone visiting the coast to take responsibility for themselves and their family.’

Conard McCullough, RNLI Lead Lifeguard Supervisor added: ‘Heading to coastal waters is a great way to have fun and stay active, especially during the summer months. But weather conditions can change quickly and, if you’re not careful, you can easily get caught out.

‘It is important that anyone visiting the coast understands the hazards of the environment. It can be an unpredictable environment, particularly during early summer when the risk of cold water shock significantly increases, as air temperatures warm but water temperatures remain dangerously cold. We would remind anyone entering the water to take extra care and avoid unnecessary risks as early season conditions are more challenging.

‘Taking basic precautions can greatly reduce the risk of getting into difficulty and improve your chance of being found quickly should you need rescuing. With this in mind, we urge beach visitors to come dressed appropriately to ensure your visit is both safe and enjoyable. For activities like paddleboarding, we’d recommend you wear a wetsuit, as it will keep you warm in an emergency. Wearing an appropriate buoyancy aid or lifejacket is also vital as is carrying a means of calling for help such as a mobile phone in a waterproof pouch.’

The RNLI is urging anyone visiting the coast this Easter to make sure they keep themselves and their families safe by following beach safety advice:

  • Visit a lifeguarded beach and swim between the red and yellow flags
  • Check the weather forecast, tide times and read local hazard signage to understand local risks
  • Keep a close eye on your family – on the beach and in the water – don’t allow your family to swim alone
  • If you fall into water unexpectedly, float to live. Fight your instinct to thrash around, lean back, extend your arms and legs, and float.
  • In an emergency, dial 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard.
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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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