Community Lifesaving — Water Safety

The RNLI plays a significant part in Water Safety and Awareness through the Coastal Safety Teams. The Torbay Coastal Safety Team are active in attending slipways & marinas during the main season, giving free safety advice and carrying out FREE lifejacket and equipment checks (Better checked sooner rather than too late and worn!), and giving various presentations to water related clubs around our coast.

Although our Lifeboats and lifeguards save many lives there are still too many lost around the UK coast every year. We want to reduce this number through our prevention work.

On average in Tor Bay year on year we have over 100 `shouts’ and the makeup of this number has changed over the years. For the last few years, the split between calls to vessels in distress and those to people is split around 50% each.

Mechanical failure of one form or another continues to be the main problem with vessels but by far the highest people `shouts’ are in support of the police/coastguards dealing with vulnerable people of one form or another. Although numbers have reduced in 2020 to date, this matter is not specific to Tor Bay. It is not one we can directly assist in resolving, that must be left to the professionals regarding the cause etc.

Our mission nationally is to reduce the overall avoidable lives lost in the water. This number is reducing year on year, however, it is difficult to categorically claim it is all down our prevention work as there are many factors, but we know we have made a difference.

Each Lifeboat station now has a Lifesaving Plan specific to the type of incidents experienced in each area. This is updated regularly (see below). There is also a nationally based annual campaign highlighting for example ‘Cold Water Shock’. We cannot save everybody but learn to float if you unexpectedly fall in the sea – ‘Float to Live’.

Locally we talk directly to those using the water for their particular activity from diving, jet skiing, sailing, motor boating, kayaking, paddle boarding to offshore swimming and sea angling. The messages are all about having the right kit and making changes to behaviours. e.g. trying to get rock fishermen to wear lifejackets etc. We speak to over a thousand people in normal years and check over 500 lifejackets (many have faults and some just would not work). This is on marinas, harbours, slipways, and beaches. We also run events and presentations and are happy to come aboard boats to advice on safety kit, training etc. So please give me a call in 2021 when I hope things will be back to ‘normal’.

Our key messages for those on, in or around the sea are:-

  • Ensure your vessel is seaworthy and if you have an engine make sure it is properly maintained. Always make sure you have enough fuel including reserve.
  • Wear a properly fitted, well maintained life jacket or personal flotation device when afloat or rock fishing.
  • Get properly trained for your preferred activity.
  • Tell someone where you are going, what you are doing and when you plan to return.
  • Always carry a means of calling for help.
  • Check the weather and tides.
  • When swimming, stay inside the 5 knot yellow buoys, but if further out make sure you can be seen with a high visibility hat and towed float. It is very difficult to spot just a head from a vessel.
  • Keep to the paths when cliff walking and keep dogs on a lead.
  • Do not use inflatables in offshore winds.
  • Do not get cut off, so always check the tide.

“Stay Safe and please contact me if you have any questions, or would like any advice”

.John Turner 
WSO & DLA Mobile: 07866 689315 
Station: 01803 853136

Torbay Lifeboat Water Safety Officer & Deputy Launch Authority

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