#Lifeguards - As RNLI lifeguards prepare to bring the 2015 season to a close this weekend in Northern Ireland, the charity that saves lives at sea has appealed to anyone planning a trip to the beach during the autumn and winter months to keep safe.
The season will draw to an end this Sunday 27 September, and RNLI lifeguard manager Mike Grocott is keen to remind anyone going to the beach post season to be aware that the lifeguards won’t be on patrol but that the same beach safety advice applies.
"While we can expect our beaches to be generally quieter in the coming months, there will be people using the water for activities such as surfing and kitesurfing.
"In the absence of RNLI lifeguards during this period, we would encourage anyone going to the beach to check weather and tide times, let someone know when you are due back, and carry a means of communication.
"If you see someone in trouble, please call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard. People can also get advice at their local RNLI lifeboat station."
During the 2015 season there was RNLI lifeguard cover on 10 beaches on the Causeway Coast and in Co Down: Benone, Downhill, Castlerock, Portstewart Strand, Portrush West, Portrush East, Whiterocks, Tyrella, Murlough and Cranfield.
Five of the busier beaches were patrolled during the Easter period and at weekends from then till the middle of June before the full time season commenced on all 10 beaches running to 6 September. Lifeguards have maintained a presence at the busier beaches at weekends during September and will finish on Sunday evening.
Reflecting on the season, Grocott said the lifeguards had dealt with a variety of incidents. "Despite the weather being unkind for most of the summer, we did see a lot of visitors to our beaches and RNLI lifeguards dealt with a range of things including rescues and major first aids involving body boarders, paddle boarders and kite surfers.
"They also responded to people who got into difficulty on the beach itself including a teenager who collapsed and a man who was struggling to breathe in his car.
"There were a number of unusual incidents to deal with this 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. Our lifeguards are highly skilled and trained and thanks to that they knew how to handle such incidents professionally when they occurred."
The lifeguards also provided safety cover and engaged with the public at key events during the summer including the Portrush Raft Race, the Tall Ships in Belfast, the Portrush Airshow, and the Glens of Antrim triathlon.
"We worked closely with our lifeboat crews at Portrush, Newcastle, Kilkeel and Red Bay, too, to respond to incidents and provide safety cover when required."
RNLI lifeguards also delivered education programmes to primary school children across Northern Ireland. Programmes such as Hit the Surf enabled the lifeguards to impart important beach safety advice through theoretic and practical lessons in lifesaving and surf-based skills, local hazards and the beach environment.