As schools in England and Wales prepare for the half-term break, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and Her Majesty’s (HM) Coastguard are reminding everyone to stay safe if they are heading to the coast as autumn sets in.
During last year’s half-term holidays, RNLI lifeboats launched 143 times and aided 78 people as its volunteer crews dealt with everything from tidal cut-offs and struggling paddleboarders to slips and trips on coastal paths.
Last October Lucien Cruse, 21, was walking her dogs on an Essex beach at low tide with her mother, Emma, and brother Tyler when they became stuck in the mud. Lucien was stuck fast, but her mother and brother managed to get themselves free and raise the alarm as the tide quickly came in.
Lucien said: ‘I got stuck at low tide. I tried all sorts of ways to get out of the mud. I admit I was pretty scared when the tide came up all the way to my waist.’
The 999 call was received by HM Coastguard who sent Coastguard Rescue Teams from West Mersea and South Woodham. Due to the speed at which the tide was closing in, the control room made the decision to also request the launch of the West Mersea lifeboat to reach the casualty as quickly as possible.
Lucien said: ‘It took the lifeboat about 10 minutes to reach us and they managed to dig the mud out from around me and get me free. I’m so grateful to all involved for saving my life.’
RNLI Senior Water Safety Manager Tony Wafer said: ‘With the best of the weather behind us for the year, we’re asking those visiting the coast this half-term to consider the dangers.
‘Our lifeboats often rescue those cut off by the tide on coastal walks, so we encourage you to check the tide times and ensure you have planned to get back safely before the water level rises.
‘For those planning a coastal walk, also consider the terrain as what may seem like firm ground can, in fact, be very soft sand or mud meaning that people might get stuck.
‘Over the coming months, sea conditions will become rougher and more unpredictable which brings many additional dangers. Large waves will break on the shoreline which increases the risk of people being swept off their feet, along with coastal erosion causing cliff falls making some areas more dangerous.
‘Around 140 people lose their lives at the UK and Irish coasts each year, and over half never even planned to enter the water. If you do find yourself in the water unexpectedly, Float to live by fighting your instinct to thrash around, lean back, extend your arms and legs, and float until you gain control of your breathing, before deciding whether to call for help or swim to safety.’
Claire Hughes, Director of HM Coastguard, said: ‘Autumn is a perfect time to explore the coastal areas around the UK, the summer crowds have gone and the weather is ideal for a walk. However, the sunshine can quickly vanish making the temperature much colder and the lifeguards who were present in peak season are no longer on most beaches. It is vital at this time of year to be prepared before you head to the coast.
‘As always, we are ready to deal with emergency situations but please take note of safety advice and don’t take risks. If you see anybody in trouble, don’t enter the water yourself to try and rescue them, call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.’
The RNLI’s key coastal safety advice is:
Have a plan – check the weather forecast, tide times, read local hazard signage and let someone know where you are going and when you intend to be back
Keep a close eye on your family and keep dogs on a lead near the edge of cliffs
If walking or running be aware that coastal paths, promenades and piers may be slippery or prone to waves breaking over them
If you fall into the water unexpectedly, Float to Live. Fight your instinct to thrash around, lean back and relax, extending your arms and legs
In an emergency dial 999, and ask for the Coastguard
For the latest RNLI safety advice on a range of activities visit: https://rnli.org/safety
To support RNLI lifesavers, please visit RNLI.org/Go Donate