RNLI lifeguards back in Swanage for the summer

This weekend will see the return of RNLI lifeguards on Swanage Beach, after plans to patrol the beach this summer were originally put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.

With everything in lockdown in May 2020, the rollout of RNLI lifeguards had to be stopped as a lot of the preparation including training couldn’t happen. There were also questions surrounding how a lifeguard could operate while trying to social distance that had to be resolved.

RNLI lifeguard hut on Swanage Beach

RNLI lifeguard hut on Swanage Beach

Shortage of income

Additionally, there is the issue of money as all the RNLI fundraising activities have been scrapped and there is a shortage of income to fund lifeguards around the country, compared to previous years.

Initially the plan was to have lifeguards in 70 coastal locations and originally Swanage with its reputation as a safer beach than some in Norfolk and Cornwall that have more challenging tidal currents, wasn’t on the list.

Now with the realisation that lots more people than usual are likely to be heading to beach resorts like Swanage this summer, many of the issues have been resolved and lifeguards will start patrolling the beach from Saturday 20th June 2020.

The safe swimming area is marked out by yellow buoys in Swanage Bay

“The lifeguards will be working hard to keep people safe on the beach”

Swanage Lifeboat Coxswain, Dave Turnbull said:

‘We are looking forward to working alongside RNLI lifeguards in Swanage again this year. The lifeguards are stationed midway along the main beach, by Swanage’s designated swimming area. The lifeguards will be working hard to keep people safe on the beach and will be encouraging everyone to check the weather and tides, and to keep an eye on their family and friends when in the water.

“As the prevailing wind in Swanage is offshore, it can often be difficult to return to the shore on an inflatable toy, dinghy or on a paddleboard or kayak, so please check the wind speed and direction before going afloat or ask the lifeguards.

“We recently rescued some children who were blown out to sea on paddleboards from Swanage. Despite trying really hard to paddle back they could not make any headway and in just under 20 minutes they were a long way from land, in very deep water, cold and exhausted. Fortunately, people ashore had seen they were in difficulty and called for help. We quickly recovered the children with our inshore lifeboat and returned them to the land.

“This is an important reminder of how quickly someone can end up in trouble on the beach, so while you enjoy Swanage Bay, please stay safe. And if you do see anyone in trouble on the water, call 999 and ask for the Coastguard’.

“This could be the busiest summer ever”

RNLI Chief Executive, Mark Dowie, added:

“With schools closed and restrictions on foreign travel, we know that lots of people will be heading to UK beaches – this could be the busiest summer ever for both our lifeguards and our lifeboat crews. I’m very grateful to all those lifeguards who have already started their patrols or are now preparing to get back on the beach – they know this will be a challenging summer and are doing a brilliant job helping to keep the public safe during this pandemic.

RNLI lifeguard hut on Swanage Beach

Lifeguards will wear PPE like ambulance crews in some situations

New measures to deal with coronavirus mean the RNLI lifeguard service will look a little different this year. Lifeguards will wear personal protective equipment (PPE) like 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.

The RNLI is reminding anyone planning a visit to the coast to remember:

  • 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

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