Beach-goers urged to take care as RNLI lifeguards return to Camber Sands

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.

RNLI lifeguards at Camber Sands last August. Picture by Kt Bruce SUS-200528-120628001
RNLI lifeguards at Camber Sands last August. Picture by Kt Bruce SUS-200528-120628001

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 on Saturday (May 30) at Camber Sands Central Beach.

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Despite the challenges posed by coronavirus and social distancing, the RNLI hopes to provide a lifeguard service on around 30 per cent 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 beach-goers, and may need to adopt 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.

Joe Mitchell, 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 we have been working closely with Rother District Council to make sure conditions are safe for our lifeguards to provide an effective service.

“Our lifeguards have a vital role in making sure visitors to the beach are aware of their surroundings, the potential dangers at the beach and providing a lifesaving rescue service should anyone get into trouble.

“We would encourage the public to follow the Government’s advice on social distancing and take care to understand the risks at the coast and the necessary steps to keep themselves safe.”

Cllr Doug Oliver, Rother District Council leader, said: “We are grateful to the efforts of the RNLI to return a service to Camber beach under such difficult circumstances.

“While those people entering the water can do so more safely with a lifeguard service in place, it is still vital that visitors observe social distancing at all times. To support this, we have limited car parking and reduced toilet facilities.

“The numbers we have seen at the beach in recent days have made social distancing extremely difficult and I would ask anyone considering a visit to think very carefully about their own safety and the safety of others, including those providing beach services, before making the journey.”

Anyone planning a visit to the coast should remember and follow RNLI safety advice:

- Have a plan and 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.

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