Heading to the beach - why it's extra important to keep your family safe

The RNLI and HM Coastguard are today launching a new beach safety campaign, urging parents to protect their families by following key safety advice to save lives this summer.

By Duncan Atkins
Thursday, 21st May 2020, 4:32 pm
Updated Thursday, 21st May 2020, 4:38 pm
Sunny day on the beach at Scarborough.
Sunny day on the beach at Scarborough.

Following the recent easing of nationwide lockdown restrictions in England and with children still off school, many more people are expected to visit the coast to exercise and take part in water-based activities.

Last weekend alone, Coastguard rescue teams were called out 194 times in the UK to incidents including inflatables drifting offshore, crashed jet skis, people injured while out walking or being cut off by the tide.

Despite the ongoing challenges posed by coronavirus and social distancing the RNLI still hopes to provide a lifeguard service on around 30% of the beaches the charity usually covers in time for the traditional peak summer season.

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The beach at Bridlington could get busy over bank holiday weekend.

But at present, there are no RNLI lifeguards on UK beaches - and they cannot be everywhere this summer.

While RNLI lifeboat crews and HM Coastguard are still on call ready to respond to emergencies, the message is clear - they we need the public to be aware of dangers, take responsibility for themselves and their loved ones and remember that, in an emergency, call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.

Gareth Morrison, RNLI Head of Water Safety, said: ‘If the charity’s lifeguards were present on the beaches today, they would be preventing many incidents before they even occurred by directing people to safe swimming areas, highlighting dangers such as rip currents and advising people not to use inflatables.

"These preventive measures are not currently in place meaning people could find themselves in danger if they are not reading the signs and following the relevant safety advice.

People are asked to use their common sense while on the beaches around the Whitby area.

"Our lifeguards are trained to swim 200m within 3 1/2 minutes, and although our volunteer lifeboat crews are fully operational, should they be needed, they won’t be able to reach you in the same time.

‘It is important that anyone visiting the coast understands that the beach can be a dangerous environment and you must take more responsibility for you and your family this summer.

"No-one ever goes to the coast to be rescued yet RNLI lifeguards rescue thousands each year."

Parents are now being urged to take charge and be ‘beach smart’ if they visit the coast to ensure they and their families have the safest summer possible,

whether lifeguards are patrolling their beach or not.

Claire Hughes, director of HM Coastguard said: "Now, more than ever we need people to respect the sea and the coast.

"If you get into trouble call 999 and ask for the Coastguard and we will come to your aid.

"But coronavirus hasn’t gone away, and we all need to follow the rules. Your choices might put people, including yourself and frontline responders, at risk.

"Take extra care in these extraordinary times."

People planning a visit to a beach or the coast should follow this 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