The gradual easing of lockdown along with great weather has caused a big increase in the numbers of people visiting the seaside. This has inevitably created a spike in the number of water rescues being performed over the bank holiday weekend by the emergency services. This was made worse by the lack of lifeguards on many beaches due to the COVID 19 situation and requests for the public to stay away were only partially successful.

According to the Royal Lifesaving society “Drowning accidents are especially high in the summer months and over the last few years, we have heard of too many tragedies that could have been avoided”. The same organisation quotes an average figure of 70 people from the UK drowning per year so the combination of good weather and less lifeguard coverage is especially worrying.

All councils and organisations responsible for water safety do a risk assessment to determine the number and type of rescue equipment will be needed for each location.

Invaluable guidance on this can be found in the RNLI guide to Beach safety-signs-flags and symbols v2 (2007).

The traditional solution is a round lifebuoy either mounted on a bracket, post or in a lifebuoy housing. A length of 20-30m floating line is attached to this enabling a rescuer to throw the lifebuoy into the water near the person needing to be rescued. They grab hold of the lifebuoy and pull the casualty towards the edge of the water.

Trials by Jo Bird have shown it is quite hard to throw lifebuoys any distance and with accurately due to their shape and size. The 762mm buoys are especially difficult. Fine for someone reasonably strong and where the casualty is already close to the water’s edge.

The other difficulty is the line attached to the lifebuoy often gets tangled up and so when the buoy is thrown it falls short due to the knotted line.

Vandalism is also a major problem with lifebuoys being lost and lines removed.

An increasingly popular solution is to use a rescue line instead of a lifebuoy. The the bag is very easy to throw in terms of both distance and accuracy. The rescuer simply holds one end of the rope and throws the bag to the casualty. The latter grabs the floating back and is pulled back to the water’s edge. This is now the favoured equipment of the emergency services including the Police. The compact dimensions make them much easier to store also so they can be carried in the back of their vehicles

These bags can be kept in the lifeguard hut but in many instances they will need to be stored outside. Coastal environments can experience high winds and heavy rain so durable solutions need to be found. What is currently available are other types of storage unit such as fire extinguisher cabinets and lifebuoy housings which were not designed for this equipment. In some cases being far larger than they need to be.

Aware of this issue, Jo Bird have developed a dedicated rescue line container in conjunction with Hillside design to compliment the well established range of lifebuoy housings. The new model has a number of advantages. It has been designed to fit around the most popular rescue lines on the market but is still compact. It is a very robust design with the body and door made in impact resistant UV stabilised polyethylene and the metal fittings in 316 stainless steel. High winds and salt spray will not cause any issues as is designed for the marine environment .

The door hinges down to release the rescue line and the lid catch can be fitted with an anti-tamper seal or a combination padlock. The latter is becoming more popular as it means a potential rescuer can phone the emergency services, quote the location reference on the front of the container and will be given the four digit access code to open the door. This is a very effective way of ensuring it is only opened in an emergency and deter the curious.

The SOS603 can be bolted to a wall or onto a beach safety sign. As an alternative Jo Bird can provide a durable GRP post kit to enable it be free standing. It can be rail mounted also.

The SOS603 is manufactured in the UK and is available to order now.

References Royal lifesaving association

RNLI Guide-to-beach-safety-signs-flags-and-symbols V2 2007