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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Maintaining the safety of the public and staff on coastal beaches during COVID-19
This document has been produced for coastal beach managers and landowners, including councils and private organisations, and reflects the current experience of members of the National Water Safety Forum (NWSF), and other interested parties, who seek to reduce drowning and water-related harm in the UK. In developing this document, we have also sought the views of international colleagues facing similar challenges.
Specifically, it is concerned with the following aspects of beach safety
- Mitigating the risk of fatal and non-fatal drowning and water-related injuries.
- The challenges and practical considerations of seeking to maintain social distancing at the beach.
- Assisting duty holders with the obligation to update their risk assessments and to consult with staff/volunteers on the implications.
The current document and other Coivid-19 related advice can be accessed here
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