RNLI charity trustees have approved measures that will lead to a doubling of RNLI lifeguard units on UK beaches over the next five years. The announcement coincides with new research indicating that over 25 million adults visited the beach at least once* during 2006, an increase of 30% on 2005. This new information on rising seaside visitor numbers is extremely timely as the RNLI expects to provide lifeguard services on potentially another 60 beaches around the UK coastline by 2011.
RNLI National Lifeguard Manager, Peter Dawes explains:
'Although we're not experts in climate change - our weather does appear to be changing and one of the effects is an extended summer season. In addition, advances in equipment and clothing technology, mean that more and more people are visiting the seaside for leisure pursuits at other times of the year.
'The RNLI is a charity that exists for one purpose - to save lives at sea. Ultimately the aim of our lifeguard expansion is to save even more lives by providing a co-ordinated rescue service from the beach to the open sea by using RNLI lifeguards and lifeboat crews in the most effective manner. The advantages of this approach have been clearly demonstrated in the south west of England where RNLI Lifeguards have been operating since 2001, helping more than 47,500 people. As a sea rescue charity with a national presence, we are well placed to extend this to other areas of the UK and save more lives, particularly on beaches where there is a clear need and no co-ordinated safety measures in place.'
The most visited seaside** area is the south west of England where RNLI Lifeguards already patrol 62 of its most popular beaches. Here the number of adults and children needing help has risen again, reflecting the increasing visitor numbers. During 2005, 9,930 adults and children were assisted, rising to 10,286*** this year (2006).
*Ipsos MORI base 2,057 UK adults Sep 06.
** 28% of seaside visits were made to the South West of England.
***Provisional figure as at 19 October 2006.