As RNLI lifeguards brought the 2016 season to a close at the weekend, the charity that saves lives at sea has reminded anyone planning a trip to the beach during the autumn and winter months to respect the water.
RNLI Lifeguard Manager Mike Grocott is keen to encourage anyone going to the beach to be aware that the lifeguards won’t be on patrol but that the same beach safety advice applies.
“It’s been another great year in which the lifeguards have worked so hard keeping our beaches safe. If you’re heading to the beach in the coming months to enjoy our beautiful coastline please make sure you read the safety signs on the beach or ask for some safety advice at one of the local surf shops before heading into the water.
“While we can expect our beaches to be quieter, there will be people using the water for activities such as surfing and kitesurfing. In the absence of RNLI lifeguards during this period, we would encourage visitors while enjoying themselves, to be mindful that the water will be colder and the sea can be dangerously unpredictable.
“Before you head out, always check weather and tide times, let someone know when you are due back, and carry a means of communication. If you see someone in trouble, please call 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard. People can also get advice at their local RNLI lifeboat station.”
During the 2016 season, there was RNLI lifeguard cover on 11 beaches on the Causeway Coast and in County Down. The beaches included Benone, Downhill, Castlerock, Portstewart Strand, Portrush West, Portrush East, Whiterocks, Ballycastle, Tyrella, Murlough and Cranfield.
The 2016 season also saw RNLI lifeguards invest a lot of time in delivering education programmes to primary school children across Northern Ireland. During a 20 week education series which ran from February to June, the lifeguard team rolled out a range of programmes including Meet the Lifeguards School/Youth Group talks, Hit the Surf and summer schemes along with additional ad-hoc beach talks during the peak season. The programmes were delivered to over 130 different groups in Northern Ireland, with lifeguards interacting with over 17,600 children of primary school age.
Jenny Thompson, RNLI Lifeguard Supervisor explained the benefits of early education: “Meet the Lifeguards aims to educate and raise awareness of beach and water safety from an early age, with the hope that these children will be able to keep themselves safe at the seaside, and retain the safety messages through to adulthood. We also have the confidence and expectation that by educating the children, they will go home and share the messages with their older siblings, parents, family and friends.
“The 2016 Hit the Surf programme was a huge success and was booked to full capacity once again. This programme gives the unique opportunity for children to be part of an exciting lifesaving course, which gives theory and practical lessons to 8–12 year olds in surfing and beach safety. Groups were taken on to the beach to play some warm up games, before taking turns to be lifeguards and casualties using rescue tubes and foam rescue boards. The children were able to grow more confident in the water, gain respect for open water, and learn how to help themselves, and their friends.”