Recently, we organised a free webinar, offered to us by Martin Willard, the Community Safety Officer at Selsey RNLI. Please see the notes below from the session, which might be useful to you at any time of the year. Some of the information is not useful for us here in Selsey as it's about lifeguarded beaches, but will be useful to you when you go to other beaches in the UK.
190 people die off our coasts every year.
We want to change this.
1/ Lifeguarded beaches
Swim between the red and yellow flags
Black and White Flags = area for surf boards and jet skis etc = Do not swim there
Red Flag = Do not enter the water.
Lifeguards are there for you, water safety, rescues, jelly fish stings, lost children etc
Check Safety Signs
2/ Know your location
In an emergency you need to tell the Coastguard where you are.
Is access OK? Safe to swim there?
Check safety signs - includes “known” name of the beach.
Check the tides – both heights and currents (Spring Tides = Strong currents; Neep tides = Weaker currents)
As a rough rule in the Solent: Full and New Moons mean Spring Tides and High Tide at Lunchtime.
Tide time and heights can be found (for free) e.g.at https://www.bbc.co.uk/weather/coast-and-sea/tide-tables/8/65
Tidal Currents can be worked out from Almanacs which have tidal current charts for various tide times or (for free) online e.g. at https://www.visitmyharbour.com/articles/3187/hourly-tidal-streams-east-solent-area-np337
Wave heights, + Tide times can be found (for free) on line, e.g. at https://www.windfinder.com/forecast/selsey-bill
3/ Rip Currents (Tides)
Rip currents occur when tidal currents produce a strong current flowing outwards at 90 degrees to the beach.
Stay calm and don’t panic.
If you can stand, then wade.
Hold onto any inflatables or boards.
Raise one hand in the air and shout HELP.
Don’t swim directly against it.
Swim parallel to the shore and then back in.
Swim between the red and yellow flags at a lifeguarded beach.
4/ Swim with others
Don't swim alone
Count them in and out – Tag system
5/ Tell someone where and when you are going
If rescue services know how long you have been missing and your last known location, they will know where to start a search which will greatly improve your chances of survival.
Tell someone where you are going.
Let them know the latest time you hope to be back
Check in with them if you change your plans and when you come out of the water.
Tell them who to contact if you do not return.
Better still take your own “Beach Watcher” with you
Someone not going swimming , aware of how many in group.
With a fully charged mobile phone - with mobile signal where you swim.
Someone who pays attention to those swimming – no dozing off or crosswords.
Prepared with information required for a rescue- ie what in your location?
6/ Know how to call for help
Don't rescue – call for help.
Dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard.
Be ready to say where you are and what the situation is.
“Person in water in trouble” will produce maximum priority.
If possible, keep pointing at the casualty, so you can guide rescuers in.
If in doubt Dial 999 and get help. The RNLI will not mind if it's a genuine false alarm or the casualty gets to safety on their own.
Hold up your hand and shout “HELP”
Try standing up.
Lie on your back and float.
Consider carefully before trying to swim to safety if help is on its way – conserve energy and heat and wait for rescue?
7/ Wear Appropriate Kit
Definitely wear a red, orange or yellow swim hat.
Give others (boaters, rescuers etc) a chance to see you.
Wet suit - UK waters are generally too cold for distance or strong swimming without a wet suit.
Consider using an Orange Surface Marker Float.
Both for visibility and for emergency flotation support.
8/ Beware Cold Water Shock.
Never exert yourself ( ie try to swim) until you can breathe smoothly.
Otherwise there is a significant chance of a heart attack.
If you have any heart problems take medical advice before swimming in cold water.
9/ Obtain appropriate training
On-line advice from competent organisation such as www.swimming.org/swimengland
Written by Martin Willard, RNLI Selsey, June 2023