NWSF coastal group: preparing for a busy summer and coastal safety
The National Water Safety Forum’s Coastal Group met virtually for the first meeting of 2021 last week.
The focus was on preparations for coastal safety this summer. It’s predicted that there will be an influx of visitors at the coast this year as the weather improves and lockdown restrictions ease.
Member discussed preventative strategies and the work that has been done so far, sharing updates and future proposals.
This included ideas on how members can join forces and spread joint safety messages far and wide to both coastal and inland audiences to maximise reach. The key messages will include top tips and safety advice on how to stay safe at the coast together with the call 999 Coastguard emergency message.
Letter to beach owners and local authorities
The RNLI and HM Coastguard reported back on a recent collaboration. The organisations have shared a letter with beach owners and local authorities providing data and information to help support safety measures, preparations, risk assessments and planning.
Policing contributing to coastal safety
Following a presentation by Inspector Adrian Woon from Devon and Cornwall Police and his colleague Sergeant Andy Mulhern, who leads on the police led Coast Safe campaign, the group explored how policing can help push safety messages and drowning prevention activity, as well as the role they may play on a national level looking ahead.
Other discussion included how partners in the group have supported each other, working collaboratively, to ensure training and qualifications are in place ahead of the lifeguard season, a presentation on individuals in crisis and HM Coastguard’s suicide incident support strategy, and James Scott Anderson from British Marine presented on the plans for introducing a Code of Practice for Marinas and Boatyards to improve safety in the recreational marine industry.
With the busy season just around the corner, the group will be meeting again in May.
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Covid-19, challenges and coastal impact
The National Water Safety Forum's Coastal Group reunited after longer than usual due to the challenges and conflicting priorities that came with the global pandemic.
The group held a virtual get together which kicked off with each organisation reflecting on the impact of Covid-19. Discussions were held on how each member could continue to support one another and work towards the joint aim of reducing drownings by 50% by 2026 amidst these unique challenges. The virtual room also exchanged lessons learnt for the future.
Observations, new trends and activities
With many people flooding to the beaches for ‘staycations’ or to exercise, unsurprisingly it was the busiest summer on record for Her Majesty’s Coastguard, the RNLI and other local authorities and emergency services, in terms of emergency search and rescue incidents at the coast.
Some coastal visitors were not familiar with potential hazards, but even the most frequent visitors were caught out by coastal dangers. From boating to kayaking, experienced and inexperienced participants alike, many people have also been going out on the water for all types of recreational water activities, with paddle boarding rising in popularity more than ever before.
Collectively these circumstances presented unique challenges for RNLI lifeguards, lifeboat crews and Coastguard Rescue Teams, and many others, but also had implications for all members in the group. From local authorities responsible for managing crowds on the beach; boating organisations wanting to ensure safe sailing in line with government guidance for both new and experienced members and public users; to managing safety messaging and government guidance for all stakeholders across all nations. Other critical considerations and shared challenges included the human impact on staffing and resources for all members, and the need to ensure safe working practices.
But there were highlights and positives to take from the challenging circumstances. We saw partnership collaborations such as the National Water Safety forum advice for maintaining the safety of the public and staff during CoVID 19 and a joint RNLI and HMCG multi-media beach safety campaign in relation to the influx of people to the coast, with the main aim of keeping the public safe and aware of potential coastal dangers. Other collaboration also emerged such as between the RNLI and RYA.
It’s predicted that it will be a busier winter than usual, with more people visiting the coast for walks while other indoor activities are not possible. Also, with more UK holidays likely again in the summer, beaches and popular beauty spots will be much more crowded than in the past. Against this context, the group will continue to work closely together to support and collaborate with each other to develop safety campaigns and other initiatives to promote safe behaviour at the coast during these unprecedented times.
The group also had updates on the SLSGB/HM Coastguard Agreement, RNLI/HMCG Operational agreement, RNLI Water Safety Strategy, National Water Safety Forum progress update, WAID new process and discovery phase and the latest progress on the review of legal responsibilities for beach safety.
The group will meet virtually again in February to work closer than ever to guide safe behavior for everyone visiting the coast.
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