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Devon's RNLI lifeguards go off-duty

South west beach life (courtesy: Sam Chamberlain/RNLI)

RNLI volunteers say it's been a season like no other

RNLI lifeguards across the south west have hung up their wetsuits until 2021. 

Nevertheless, with unpredictable weather conditions at this time of year, they're reminding people to take extra care and to heed safety advice

Changes due to the covid-19 pandemic saw lifeguards adopting socially distanced patrols and PPE for casualty care. On top of this, lifeguards dealt with record numbers on the region's beaches and summer storms that saw lifeguards save 15 lives in just one week.

Sam Chamberlain, senior RNLI lifeguard at Perranporth whose photos illiustrate this article, says: "A pandemic is something that none of us has experienced before and having to keep your distance and wear masks around people that you’ve known and worked with for years felt very strange. 

"This summer has by far been the busiest that I have experienced during my 10 seasons as a lifeguard.  The packed beaches, the strength of the rip currents, and making sure the service was Covid secure were all big challenges, but despite this we still had an amazing season and the lifeguards provided an excellent service for their community.’

Tom Mansell, RNLI regional lifesaving lead says: "It has been an extraordinary season in so many ways. Our lifeguards have continuously gone the extra mile day in and day out to keep people safe on the region's beaches. While some years they may have had respite from the crowds on a rainy day, the sheer volume of people in the west country and the need to pre-book other attractions has meant people have flocked to the beaches day after day from May all the way through to this October half term. 

"During one week alone in August, lifeguards saved 15 lives on our beaches. I am extremely proud of the resilience and professionalism these teams have shown, they have proved to be integral to our beach communities and while our figures show the rescues and lives saved, we know the conversations and advice they have given while on duty will have helped save many, many more lives this summer."

RNLI lifeguard at work (courtesy: Sam Chamberlain/RNLI)

Although the lifeguards have packed up until spring, RNLI volunteer lifeboat crews continue to be on call 365 days a year ready to respond to emergencies when their pager goes off.But to avoid putting yourself and our volunteers at risk, please heed the following safety advice this winter:  

  • Check tides, weather and sea conditions and be realistic about your level of ability. Winter is not the time to push your limits 
  • Avoid going in the water alone.If you are planning to go for a kayak, surf or swim, always go with someone, have someone on the shore or at least let somebody know where you will be and what time you expect to be back  
  • If you are an inexperienced water user, avoid isolated beaches that have a reduced footfall so that if you do get into difficulty, there is a chance someone will see you and raise the alarm 
  • Take note of the signage at the entrance to the beach which will indicate any localised hazards. If in doubt, ask a local for advice  
  • Always wear appropriate equipment, this includes a winter wetsuit, wetsuit hood, boots and gloves – the colder you get, the weaker your body will become, increasing your risk of getting into difficulty.  We’d also suggest having warm clothing, a hot drink and a woolly hat for afterwards  
  • If you find yourself in trouble, never abandon your craft, it will keep you afloat until help arrives 
  • If you see somebody in difficulty, dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard.,Stay on scene until they arrive as this will aid the rescue, but please do not attempt to rescue them yourself 


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