The long, hot summer of 2013 has been one of the busiest on record for Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) lifesavers in the north of England.
The charity’s volunteer lifeboat crews carried out 598 rescue launches in June, July and August – a 28.9% increase on the previous year. Only the summers of 2003 (632 launches) and 2009 (634 launches) were busier.
RNLI lifeguards also experienced a busy season in the north, dealing with 1,408 incidents compared to 1,143 last summer – a 23.2% increase.*
Across the UK and Republic of Ireland, the charity’s lifeboats launched 4,300 times – the most in 24 years – and lifeguards attended 14,814 incidents.
In contrast to the summer of 2012, which was the wettest for 100 years, this summer saw beach goers basking in sunshine for days on end and temperatures topping 30C. Gareth Wilson, RNLI Divisional Operations Manager in the north, said good summer weather generally leads to a higher than average number of lifeboat launches.
He added: ‘The more people there are at the coast, going to the beach and taking to the water, the more calls there will be for RNLI assistance. Our volunteer lifeboat crews are at their busiest when the sun is shining and some stations were called out several times a day at the height of the summer to help people who got into trouble on a trip to the seaside.’
The busiest lifeboat stations in the north of England this summer were:
Blackpool 62 launches (51 in 2012)
Sunderland 45 launches (45 in 2012)
Redcar 45 launches (24 in 2012)
New Brighton 34 launches (16 in 2012)
Hartlepool 30 launches (19 in 2012)
The majority of summer lifeboat rescues are traditionally carried out close to land by inshore lifeboat crews and 2013 was no different, with 495 inshore lifeboat and inshore rescue hovercraft launches in the north (83% of the total). Among the people saved were swimmers in serious difficulty, children on inflatables, kayakers who overturned and people walking on the beach who became cut off by the tide.
Keith Horrocks MBE, Blackpool RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager, said: ‘Our lifeboats have launched to a vast range of incidents from children getting swept out to sea on inflatables to broken down pleasure boats and dogs in difficulty. Even the naming ceremony of our new lifeboat was interrupted by a rescue call. Our volunteers have been extremely busy this summer and I am very proud of the dedication they have all shown to the RNLI, to Blackpool Lifeboat Station and to their aim of saving lives at sea.’
Dave Cammish, Redcar RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager, said: ‘It’s been a hectic summer period for the volunteer crew members at Redcar and I can’t praise them enough for their commitment. July was particularly busy for us. There were countless times where the crew had to leave their families to enjoy the sunny weather and rush off to help people who got into difficulties on or in the sea. Over one weekend alone we launched five times, dealing with everything from people cut off by the tide to children being blown out to sea in a toy inflatable.’
The sunny weather has also meant an increase in visitors to beaches in the north of England and the charity’s lifeguards have been very busy issuing safety advice, rescuing people in difficulty in the water and locating missing children.
Matt Horton, RNLI Senior Lifeguard Manager, said: ‘Last year, the poor weather kept many people away from our beaches but this summer the long periods of sunshine have led to visitors flocking to the coast – especially during the weekends. Our lifeguards have been kept extremely busy treating everything from minor cuts and bruises through to performing major first-aid and lifesaving rescues.
‘95% of a lifeguard’s work is preventative and this year, more than ever, the public has really embraced our key safety messages such as always remembering to swim between the red and yellow flags. This has probably meant that incidents have not risen too sharply compared to the increased volume of beach users.’