Recent hot weather and easing of lockdown has led to thousands of people flocking to beaches and a busy period for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) volunteer lifeboat crew.The charity is urging anyone planning to visit the coast to make sure they follow safety advice to keep themselves and their families safe. The reminder comes as the RNLI begins the first phase of its lifeguard service roll out, with patrols starting tomorrow, Saturday 30 May at New Brighton and Crosby beaches.
Despite the challenges posed by coronavirus and social distancing, the RNLI hopes to provide a lifeguard service on around 30% of the beaches the charity usually covers in time for the traditional peak summer season.
The remainder of these beaches will be confirmed as soon as possible.Since the easing of restrictions, the charity has focussed on re-establishing the infrastructure required for the lifeguard service – something made more complicated by the charity’s responsibility to make sure lifeguards are operating safely during a pandemic.
During a normal summer, this takes time and includes recruitment, training, and the ordering and distributing of equipment and facilities to beaches.This year, the charity also had to ensure lifeguards are equipped with the appropriate PPE and have received training and support in new operating procedures and precautions needed to manage the challenges of coronavirus alongside the other demands of their role.
This means the lifeguard service will look a little different this year. Lifeguards will wear PPE similar to ambulance crews in some situations. New protocols for all first responders mean the lifeguards may not deal with some minor first aid cases but will support people to treat themselves.
They will also try to keep socially distant from beachgoers, and may need toadopt different patrol methods at times, such as not using the red and yellow flags and asking people to keep apart but close to shore, to help keep people safe while maintaining social distancing.
Matt Crofts, RNLI Lifesaving Manager said:
As ever, the welfare of our staff and beach visitors along with our commitment to providing a responsible lifesaving service is the RNLI’s priority and so we have been working closely with the Sefton and Wirral Councils to make sure that conditions are safe for our lifeguards to provide an effective service.
Anyone planning a visit to the coast should remember and follow RNLI safety advice:
Have a plan - check the weather forecast, tide times and read local hazard signage
Keep a close eye on your family – on the beach and in the water
Don’t allow your family to swim alone
Don’t use inflatables
If you fall into the 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, and ask for the Coastguard
A Sefton Council spokesperson said:
While the presence of lifeguards at Crosby will mean additional safety for people at the beach, we would still reiterate that the best way people can stay safe at this time is not to travel to our coastline where they are in danger of contracting Covid-19 or of passing it on to others and spreading the Virus in our local communities. Our beach car parks and public toilets remain closed and our bins are not in use.
A Wirral Council spokesperson said:
Wirral Council will continue to work with and support the RNLI as they provide this vital service. Although lockdown is easing, we would remind residents and visitors that if a beach is busy, it will put extra pressure on RNLI crews.