In light of the stark figures which reveal 30-million people are planning to hit the UK coast this summer, the RNLI in Wales is taking steps to ensure their safety. With uncertainty over foreign holidays and international travel, the RNLI is predicting this summer will be the busiest ever on the Welsh coast, as Covid restrictions are eased and people choose to ‘staycation’.
The lifesaving charity and HM Coastguard are launching the safety campaign ahead of the Bank Holiday weekend and half-term holidays and urge people to choose lifeguarded beaches when they visit the coast. The charity has also teamed up with experts at Bangor University to collaborate and explore the best ways to keep people safe.
This weekend lifeguards in Wales will return to their posts around the country, including Newgale Central in Pembrokeshire.
In a survey, commissioned by the RNLI, 75 per cent of those questioned - aged 16-64 - expect to visit a UK beach or the coast between April and September, with around half of that number likely to do so three or more times. A significantly higher proportion of the public (36 per cent) also said they plan to visit the coast more than usual this year, compared to 2020 (24 per cent).
Chris Cousens, RNLI water safety lead in Wales, said: “We are expecting this summer to be the busiest ever for our lifeguards and volunteer lifeboat crews in Wales and the survey figures back that up. With its stunning scenery and spectacular beaches, we are certain people will flock to the Welsh coastline and want people to enjoy it. We do, however, urge everyone to respect the water, think about their own safety and know what to do in an emergency.
“Our main advice is to visit a lifeguarded beach and swim between the red and yellow flags. RNLI lifeguards will be patrolling around 245 beaches this summer to offer advice on how to stay safe and they are also there to help anyone who gets into trouble.
“Whether you’re at a lifeguarded beach or not, look out for safety signage and seek advice on safe places to swim, keep your children under supervision at all times, avoid swimming alone where possible and know to alert the lifeguards or call 999 or 112 and ask for Coastguard in an emergency.
“Coastal areas provide a great opportunity to enjoy fresh air and open space, but they can be an unpredictable environment, particularly during early summer when air temperatures start warming up, but water temperatures remain very cold, increasing the risk of cold water shock.’
The key summer safety advice is:
• Visit a lifeguarded beach and swim between the red and yellow flags
• If you get into trouble Float to Live – lie on your back and relax, resisting the urge to thrash about
• Call 999 or 112 in an emergency and ask for the Coastguard
Not everyone who finds themselves in trouble in the water, expected to even get wet. RNLI statistics for Wales show people enjoying a walk and getting cut off by the tide caused almost 10 per cent of all RNLI lifeboat launches over the last decade - more than double the UK average. Lifeguards rescue hundreds more stranded people every year.
For this reason, the RNLI has teamed up with experts at Bangor University to gain a better understanding of people’s understanding of tides and the associated risks at the coast. As part of a long-term project, the lifesaving charity and leading Welsh university will shortly launch a survey to gain a better understanding of people’s knowledge to be able to effectively explore the appropriate interventions. With bigger than usual tides this Bank Holiday weekend, the RNLI is hopeful people will take heed of specialist advice.
Dr. Martin Austin, senior lecturer in Ocean Sciences at Bangor University, said: “At Bangor University we research how tides interact with the coastline; this work improves our ability to predict how beaches change and identify the dangers that they can present to the people using them for recreation.
“We are pleased to be working with the RNLI on this important project because educating people about the hazards is the best way of keeping them safe on our beautiful coastline.”
If you find yourself in trouble in cold water, your natural reaction can be to panic and thrash around, which increases the chances of breathing in water and drowning. The best thing to do is to float on your back and wait for the effects of cold water shock to pass until you can control your breathing. You can then plan your next move to reach safety.
For further information on the beach safety campaign visit: RNLI.org/BeachUK2021
A full list of RNLI lifeguarded beaches can be found here: rnli.org/find-my-nearest/lifeguarded-beaches
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