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North West RNLI launches beach safety campaign

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and Her Majesty’s (HM) Coastguard today launch a joint beach safety campaign as a new study reveals around 30M people plan to visit the UK coast this summer.

With the North West boasting popular beaches across Lancashire, Cumbria, and Merseyside, it is expected visitors will flock to area amidst uncertainty over foreign holidays and international travel

In a survey, commissioned by the RNLI, 75% 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%) also said they plan to visit the coast more than usual this year, compared to 2020 (24%).

The RNLI is predicting this summer will be the busiest ever as Covid restrictions are eased and people choose to ‘staycation’.

Last year, RNLI lifeguards in the North West aided more people than anywhere else in the UK. They attended 846 incidents and aided 9,624 people. 

With the Bank Holiday weekend and half-term holidays upon us, the RNLI and HM Coastguard are launching a new safety campaign, urging everyone to choose lifeguarded beaches when they visit the coast. There are bigger than normal tides expected over the coming few days and the RNLI has issued a plea to the public to be extra cautious, as many people who got into trouble had were simply out enjoying a walk and not expecting to get into trouble.

Chris Cousens, RNLI Water Safety Lead in the North West says:

‘We are expecting this summer to be the busiest ever for our lifeguards and volunteer lifeboat crews across the North West and the survey figures back that up. With its stunning scenery and spectacular beaches, we are certain people will flock to the area’s 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.

‘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.’

Not everyone who finds themselves in trouble in the water, expected to even get wet. RNLI statistics for the West region which includes the North West, show people enjoying a walk and getting cut off by the tide caused almost 10% of all RNLI lifeboat launches over the last decade - more than double the UK average. Lifeguards rescue hundreds more stranded people every year.

With bigger than usual tides this Bank Holiday weekend, the RNLI is hopeful people will take heed of advice to always check the weather and tides before setting out on a trip.

The key summer safety advice is:

· Visit a lifeguarded beach & 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 in an emergency and ask for the Coastguard

In 2020, RNLI lifeguards saved 110 lives, aided 25,172 people - including 1,908 involving bodyboards and 348 with inflatables – responded to 10,687 incidents and made more than 2.2M preventative actions.

Claire Hughes, Director of HM Coastguard, said: ‘2020 was an exceptionally busy year and we’re expecting more people to take their holidays around our wonderful coasts this summer.

‘We’re asking everyone to follow a few simple safety tips, so the trip is memorable for all the right reasons.

‘Before setting out, take a minute to check the weather, tides and winds to help avoid getting caught out.

‘Leave inflatables at home as they are designed for the pool, not open water, where the wind and current can very quickly take you out to sea and into danger.

‘Recreational watersports such as paddleboarding are now incredibly popular and we’d encourage everyone to make it a fun rather than frightening experience.

‘It pays to prepare and taking a mobile phone in a waterproof pouch when you set out for a paddle will mean you can call for help if needed.

‘If you or someone else is in trouble, always call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.’

Not everyone who finds themselves in trouble in the water, expected to even get wet though.

In a normal year, around 140 people lose their lives accidentally at the coast and more than half of those never intended to be in the water.

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

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