Following the Government’s instruction as of 23 March for people to stay at home and avoid gathering outdoors, the RNLI has made the decision to immediately pause the rollout of lifeguard patrols onto beaches. This is to ensure lifeguards adhere to the Government’s instructions to limit contact between people and encourage the public to do the same. Our lifeboat stations remain on service.
Lifeguards work and train in groups, which makes keeping the requirement to remain 2 metres apart difficult and the nature of their work with the public puts them – and beach visitors – at risk of close contact. Also, their usual activity includes encouraging people to visit patrolled beaches and swim in certain areas – this activity would go against the Government’s clear instruction for people to stay at home, maintain social distancing and not congregate in groups.
The rollout of RNLI lifeguards to 47 beaches that were due to start patrols this weekend and over the Easter period will be postponed until further notice.
This decision will affect approximately 390 trained lifeguards who were ready to patrol beaches in the next few weeks and we will be working with them to understand what this means for them. We hope that once the current situation changes and government guidance allows, we will be able to re-establish the lifeguard service and employ those lifeguards onto the beaches but it is too early to know when that might be.
With the situation changing regularly, we will continue to review the rollout of lifeguard beaches as the season continues with the aim of restoring services when possible. In the meantime, we are working with beach owners to inform the public that lifeguards will not be patrolling and have the following safety advice:
- Take care if walking near cliffs – know your route and your limitations
- Check the weather forecast and tide times
- If going afloat, carry a means for calling for help and always wear a lifejacket
- If you fall into the water unexpectedly FLOAT TO LIVE. Fight your instinct to thrash around, lean back, extend your arms and legs, and Float
- In any coastal emergency dial 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard