Lifeguards from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) return to beaches this week, as the charity, Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council and National Trust prepare and get ready for another busy season.
From this Good Friday (7 April) through to Sunday 16 April, lifeguards will be providing a patrol from 11am to 7pm on Benone Strand, Portrush West Strand, Portrush East Strand, Whiterocks and Ballycastle and from 10am to 6pm on Portstewart Strand.
Last summer RNLI lifeguards in Northern Ireland saved 13 lives, aided over 450 people and responded to over 300 incidents as over 650,000* people visit a RNLI lifeguarded beach in Northern Ireland in 2022.
The RNLI works in partnership with Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, the National Trust, and Newry, Mourne and Down District Council each year to set up and roll out a lifeguard service at their request. Setting up a lifeguard service each season for the Council involves several different elements including recruiting and training lifeguards and organising the logistics to deliver equipment and in some cases lifeguard units to each beach.
Before a lifeguard sets foot on a beach, they take part in months of training. From a rigorous fitness test to learning vital casualty care skills, it takes a lot of hard work, dedication and commitment in order to save lives at the beach.
As well as rescuing those in trouble in the water, RNLI lifeguards have to deal with multiple lost children, minor first aids including cuts and stings, major first aids including fractures and critical illnesses and provide safety advice to beach goers to ensure they enjoyed their day at the beach as safely as possible.
Michael Thompson, RNLI Regional Lifeguard Lead said: ‘RNLI lifeguards are at the forefront of the charity’s lifesaving work, as they keep beach visitors safe across the Causeway Coast and in Co Down. Last year’s figures show the importance of our lifeguards and what they do for the public, we are expecting coastal areas to be just as busy in the summer season ahead.
‘The RNLI has been working closely with the Councils, the National Trust and local communities to ensure the beaches and lifeguard units are ready and equipped, and that lifeguard training has been performed seamlessly.
‘Pre-season preparations have gone well, and our lifeguards are looking forward to getting back on the beaches and doing what they do best; offering preventative safety advice to visitors and rescuing those in difficulty in the water or on the beach itself.
‘However, it is important to remember that our lifeguards can’t be everywhere. Our lifeguards will be supported by the charity’s 24/7 lifeboat service and water safety work, but we urge anyone visiting the coast to take responsibility for themselves and their family this summer.’
Both Causeway Coast and Glens and Newry, Mourne and Down District Councils and the National Trust invest each year in keeping their beach visitors safe by contributing to RNLI costs, which helps to meet lifeguard wages, while the extensive training and equipment needed is provided by the charity through public donations. RNLI lifeguards work alongside other emergency services and teams integral to an enjoyable visit to the beach.
Richard Gillen, Coast and Countryside Manager at Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council: ‘The partnership between Council and RNLI in providing beach lifeguarding services is invaluable. As visitors continue to enjoy the coastline either in and on the water or on a beach, we want them to do so safely. The RNLI lifeguards are a key component in ensuring the visitor experience is safe and enjoyable.’
The RNLI in partnership with the Councils and National Trust will carry out their usual lifeguard service this year across Northern Ireland in its standard phased approach. The first beaches for Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council will go on service from Good Friday 7 April, ahead of the Easter weekend, and the number across the whole of Northern Ireland will gradually increase through the season until the peak school summer holidays when all beaches are patrolled.
Find your nearest at rnli.org/find-my-nearest/lifeguarded-beaches.
The RNLI is urging anyone visiting the coast this summer to make sure they keep themselves and their families safe by following their beach safety advice.
- Visit a lifeguarded beach and swim between the red and yellow flags.
- Check the weather forecast, tide times and read local hazard signage to understand local risks.
- For activities like paddleboarding or kayaking we recommend you wear a wetsuit, buoyancy aid or lifejacket and carry a means of calling for help in a waterproof pouch and keep it on you. Tell someone what you are doing, where you are going and when you expect to return.
- If you are going open water swimming, use a wetsuit to keep you warm, wear a bright coloured swim hat and take a tow float to store personal items including a phone for emergencies
- 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 an emergency dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard.
If you are interested in working on the beach this summer, there are still lifeguard positions available. You will receive world-class lifesaving training, enjoy good rates of pay, the possibility of flexible working patterns and develop valuable skills for their future career. Find out more about becoming a lifeguard at rnli.org/BeALifeguard.