The RNLI is currently working through the updated guidance in England delivered by the UK Prime Minister on 11 May and will be engaging with a number of watersport governing bodies and other stakeholders to help inform its response.
Following changes in Government guidance for England, which allows people to travel to the coast and use the water, many people may choose to participate in water-based activities such as swimming, kayaking, surfing, boating and angling from Wednesday 12 May.
The charity is warning beach visitors that at present there are no RNLI lifeguards on beaches and although our volunteer lifeboat crews are fully operational, should they be needed, it is important that anyone visiting the coast understands the risk and takes the necessary steps to keep themselves safe. This will also help to reduce the demands placed on our lifeboat crews and other emergency services including HM Coastguard. In this way we can all work together to succeed in ensuring the coast is a safe place to visit.
The RNLI normally patrols over 240 beaches around the coast, however, rollout of the normal seasonal lifeguard service was paused at the end of March due to the measures put in place by the UK Government to control the spread of Coronavirus.
The charity is currently working with local authorities and beach owners in the hope that it can provide a lifeguard service on around 30% of the beaches the charity usually covers this summer. Re-establishing this infrastructure and distributing equipment to beaches will take time. We must also make sure that conditions are safe for our lifeguards to provide an effective service – our priority remains to be the safety of our people and the public.
We would urge anyone planning a visit to the coast to follow RNLI safety advice:
Take care near cliffs – know your route and your limitations
Have a plan – check the weather forecast and tide times
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
If boating, ensure your equipment is functioning and maintained
In any coastal emergency dial 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard.
Although guidance for Wales and Scotland remains the same for essential travel and work, the public are allowed to take part in unlimited exercise and we are awaiting further Government guidance for Northern Ireland later this week – the RNLI has seen a number of water rescues around the coast and therefore urges all who are using the water to make sure they understand the risks and follow safety advice.