Like many others out there, I’m a keen runner and walker. And I like nothing more than pulling on my trainers and heading out for a gentle trot by the coast. But while this does wonders for my cardiovascular health and for my general mood, it can be a risky activity.
According to the Royal Life Saving Society, between 2012 and 2016, 300 people across the UK lost their lives to drowning whilst running or walking by the water – that’s an average of 60 lives lost per year.
Indeed, I had my own minor brush with potential calamity a couple of years ago, when I was running along the South West Coast Path near Falmouth in Cornwall.
I was negotiating a particularly steep bit of path, when a Coastguard helicopter flew overhead. I stopped briefly to watch it, when suddenly the path beneath my feet gave way and I found myself flat on my face and sliding towards the significant drop towards the rocks below.
Thankfully, I didn’t slide very far and was able to scramble back up to the path. But I was a little shaken and bleeding somewhat from a fairly sizeable gash on my leg. I was able to clean myself up, though, and continued on my run – though at a slower pace and paying a lot more attention to my surroundings.
Because I tend to go running either on my own or with my dog, and because I usually run off-road (and frequently in quite remote locations), I always take a number of precautions. And I would urge anyone else who runs or walks either by the water or anywhere remote to do the same.
- Always tell someone where you are going and when you will be back. Also, be very clear with them what they should do if you are not back by your cut-off time. For me, I ask them to dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard (if I’m running near the coast), Mountain Rescue (if I’m running in a remote area – though note that you have to ask for the Police and then Mountain Rescue), or the Police (for anywhere else).
- Take a basic first aid kit – and know how to use it. Think about the sort of injuries that you could sustain and make sure you’re able to deal with them. Whenever I go running, I carry a small pouch with a couple of wound dressings, a compression bandage, some tape, a load of plasters and an emergency blanket. And I take a more comprehensive kit if I’m going on a longer or more remote trek.
- Have a means of calling for help in an emergency. For the RNLI, the Coastguard, Mountain Rescue or anyone else to be able to help you, they need to know two things. Firstly, they need to know that you are in trouble. And secondly, they need to know where you are. I always carry a whistle, a torch and a mobile phone (in a waterproof case). And if I’m going anywhere remote, I also take a personal locator beacon (PLB).
- Pay close attention to your surroundings. The best way to stay safe is to not get into trouble in the first place. So if you are running or walking by the coast, for example, stay off rocks and stay clear from the edges of cliffs. And be aware of tide times. If I’m out alone, I take great care to avoid putting myself into a situation where I could slip, trip, fall or get cut off by the tide. And if I’m running with my dog, I make sure that she’s under close control, too.
The Royal Life Saving Society is running a UK Runners and Walkers awareness campaign from 1st to 7th January, warning the public to be extra careful around water. This is because runners and walkers have the highest incidence of accidental drowning. You can find out more online.
Research indicates that roughly one in four adult victims of drowning have alcohol in their bloodstream. And it is at Christmas time, with its office parties and general merriment, that people can be most at risk. In the West of England, where the little guys are based, several young people have drowned tragically in recent years. Including one in Portishead Marina, just yards from the lifeboat station.
Because of this, the little guys are delighted to support the Royal Life Saving Society‘s ‘Don’t drink and drown’ campaign.
The campaign, which runs from 4th to 10th December, warns drinkers to steer clear of walking by or entering water when under the influence of alcohol.
Here are some of the RLSS’s top tips to stay safe this Christmas:
- Don’t enter the water if you have been drinking
- Remember that alcohol seriously affects your ability to get yourself out of trouble
- Look out for your friends – make sure they get home safely
- Don’t walk home near water, because you might fall in
Alcohol lowers inhibitions, leading to impaired judgment, which means you are more likely to take risks and get into trouble. It also slows down your reactions, numbs your senses and makes simple movements much harder.
So just because you can drink like a fish, it doesn’t mean that you can swim like one. And if you do get into trouble, you may not be able to get yourself out of it. Falling into cold water, especially in the dark, could mean that a great night out ends in a tragic, terrifying and lonely death.
To find our how you can support the RLSS’s ‘Don’t drink and drown’ campaign, and potentially help to save a life, go to their special campaign website. And if you go out for a drink this Christmas, please stay away from the water.
It’s been an awesome year for the little guys.
For a start, they’ve visited and learned about a whole host of lifeboat stations around the country, from the Lizard down in Cornwall to Oban up on the west coast of Scotland.
And they’ve met some truly fantastic people along the way.
They’ve helped to promote important safety messages and have been keen supporters of the RNLI’s ‘Respect the water’ campaign.
They’ve done their bit to raise funds to support the work of our lifeboat crews and lifeguards around the country.
And they’ve been welcomed into the RNLI family at Portishead lifeboat station, the newest station in the RNLI (although an independent station for twenty years) and home to an outstanding group of volunteers.
But the little guys are keen not to rest on their laurels. Having had such a great time last year, they’re determined to do even more in 2016.
They’re working on new safety messages and still have open invitations from a whole load of lifeboat stations around the country. They’re even looking into setting themselves up on Instagram. So watch this space.
And have an awesome year!
The little guys are delighted to support the RNLI’s ‘Respect the Water’ campaign. The waters around the British and Irish coasts are dangerously unpredictable. Over two hundred people die accidentally each year around the coast. The RNLI wants to change that and has set itself the goal of halving the number of coastal drownings by 2024.
The ‘Respect the Water’ campaign targets some of the main reasons why people get into trouble around the coast. For instance, did you know that:
- Even if you’re a great swimmer and can hold your breath for ages in the bath, cold water shock can steal the air from your lungs and leave you helpless;
- The water can be unpredictable, with waves, tides and hidden currents that can drag you out to sea in seconds;
- Around half the people who drown never expected to get wet – many get caught out by unexpected slips, trips and falls into the water.
Living on the edge of the Bristol Channel, the little guys know all too well about the dangers that tidal patterns and hidden currents can present, with the water regularly whizzing past the lifeboat station at Portishead at six to eight knots – that’s faster than most small boats can sail and definitely faster than you can swim.
Whether you’re a sailor, a kayaker or just someone who likes to visit the coast, help the little guys to support the ‘Respect the Water’ campaign by checking out the RNLI’s safety information online and watching the videos on the Respect the Water website. And please take that little bit extra care when you’re out and about on the coast this summer.
The Lifeboat Crew is my intrepid band of LEGO minifigures. Our aim is to raise awareness of the valuable work done around our coasts by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and its crews. We’ll be bringing you stories, photos and important water safety messages – minifig style!
Some of the Crew
My name is Simon Perks and ‘The Lifeboat Crew’ project is my way of helping the RNLI to save lives at sea. I’m a keen sailor, kayaker and gig rower and take great comfort from knowing that our lifeboat crews are there should I ever need them.
You can find us on Twitter @thelifeboatcrew and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/lifeboatcrew. And, of course, we’re also here on our website. We try to post something on Twitter and Facebook most days. And we aim to write a longer blog post here about once a week, usually on a Tuesday. This can vary a bit, though, depending on the demands of the day job. (Sorry.)
In case you’re not familiar with the RNLI, it’s the charity that saves lives at sea. Its volunteer lifeboat crews rescue an average of 23 people every day and RNLI lifeguards provide a seasonal lifeguard service on many of our most popular beaches. The RNLI is independent from Government and relies on support from people like us.
We hope you like what we’re doing and we’d love to hear from you.
Simon (and the little guys).