It seems like the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) Lifeguard service have been with us for decades, but in fact they’re only ten years old and in that time they have come to the aid of over 102,600 people and saved over 590 people who might otherwise have died had the service ot been available on that beech.
The RNLI now protects 162 beaches around the coast of England and Wales, either taking over the service from local authorities and volunteer groups, or establishing safety patrols and rescue services for the first time.
The service provided by the RNLI Lifeguard goes hand-in-hand with provided by the Lifeboats, providing full-time close shore-support during the summer season and, on some beaches, throughout the winter too.
The lifeguard has to be fit, in fact very fit – able to run 200m in less than 50 seconds and swin 400m in under 7.5 minutes. This level of fitness helps to ensure that casualties have the best chance of rescue and survival.
Equipment levels are high, despite the small area the lifeguards are charged to patrol. As well as 4×4 patrol vehicles, all-terrain quad bikes and inflatable inshore rescue boats, that are capable of 26 knots, fast 40 knot (55 mph) rescue water craft (RWC) are also at their disposal. These excellent handling machines are agile and can be on the scene of an incident in seconds – vital to ensure the casualty receives support and treatment as quickly as possible. Furthermore, the RWCs can be operated by a single lifeguard, freeing the other personnel up to patrolling, observing and giving assistance to other folk.
Whilst the Lifeguard service is there to provide assistance in time of trouble, the RNLI belives that preventing incidents in the first place is the ideal scenario and they have embarked on a number of beach safety campaigns over the 10 year period. These have been so effective that in 2008 the average number of incidents per beach fell below 100, to 87, for the first time in 2008.
The RNLI Lifeguard service doesn’t come cheap. Some of the beach services are funded by local authorities, but in the main this usually covers the costb of the lifeguard’s wages and maybe something towards equipping them. However, the bulk of equipment and training costs comes from the RNLI’s own funds. For example, it costs over £1,000 per year to train and equip each lifeguard. Other costs include:
|Rescue Water Craft||£6,000||Rescue board||£780||Full wetsuit||£130|
|Inshore rescue boat||£9,000||Rescue tube||£75|
|Patrol vehicle (4×4)||£21,000||Binoculars||£75|
|All-terrain vehicle (quad)||£5,000||Spinal board||£295|
Whilst there isn’t the glamour of a big lifeboat station and exciting lifeboat launches the RNLI Lifeguard service does provide an extremely valuable and much-needed service around our coasts that perfectly compliments the work performed by the lifeboat stations.
As members of the Lifeboat Amateur Radio Society we can be justly proud that the money we raise each year not only goes towards the running of the lifeboat stations, boats and crews, but also to the lifeguards who also perform heroics and put their lives at risk to save others in the often treacherous waters around our coasts.
You can find out more about the RNLI Lifeguard service by visiting the Royal National Lifeboat Institution web site.
If you would like to support the RNLI through your hobby why not consider joing the Lifeboat Amateur Radio Society and help run special events to raise the public’s awareness of the RNLI’s work and raise money through our annual sponsored event in January – SOS Radio Week.