THIS New Year, as people choose to blow away the festive cobwebs on the coast, the RNLI has teamed up with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to support the Winter Coastal Safety Campaign.
The campaign serves as a reminder that the coast and sea can be incredibly dangerous places – from rough winter seas to changing tides and unstable and eroding cliff-top edges.
The charity and the MCA are hoping people adhere to government guidelines if they are lucky enough to live close to the coast – and to take heed of vital safety advice to ensure they and their families stay safe.
The RNLI is keen to stress that it is people out enjoying the shoreline who are most at risk of drowning. The charity’s drowning prevention campaign Respect the Water advocates the benefits of floating should people find themselves in cold water.
Chris Cousens, RNLI regional water safety lead said: “As people enjoy some well-deserved time off, we expect some families heading out and about enjoying our coastlines. Coastal walking is a very safe activity most of the time, but slips and falls from walking and running are the biggest cause of death on our coastline.”
The RNLI is offering the following advice to people who will visit the coast this holiday:
• Be wary of all edges around the sea and waterside. Slips and falls happen in all locations; it is not just high cliff edges that are a risk.
• Always let someone know where you are going and when you expect to be back.
• Take care when walking in dark and slippery conditions.
• Always take a means of calling for help. Always check the weather and tides. Getting cut off by the tide is a common cause of lifeboat launches.
Chris added: “The sea is particularly cold this time of year, if you do enter the water unexpectedly the RNLI’s advice is to float on your back for a short time to regain control of your breathing. The natural reaction is to panic, but floating until you are in a position to call for help will give you a much better chance of surviving.”
The MCA campaign encourages people to use a ‘coastal safety check list.’
The advice includes:
• Before you set-off, make sure you’re wearing appropriate footwear and carrying a fully-charged mobile phone so that you have a means of contacting family, friends or dialling 999 and asking for the coastguard, in a coastal emergency.
• Always let people know when you’ll be back home too and don’t be tempted to take a risky photo by a cliff edge or large waves for social media, it could be the last you ever capture.
• Get familiar with the area by reading local safety information, warnings and advice, and also check tide timings online before you go so that you don’t get caught out.
• Open spaces are ideal for dog walking but please keep your furry friends on a lead and if your pet does get into danger, do not attempt to self-rescue your animal. Call 999 Coastguard and ask for our assistance.
Claire Hughes, director of HM Coastguard, added: “We are expecting lots of visitors to the coast over the holiday period and are prepared and ready, as always, to deal with all emergency situations.
“Take note of our safety advice and don’t take risks, be responsible for your actions and follow the government’s Covid-19 guidance.”