The charity will deliver their usual lifeguard service across the UK and Channel Islands this year in its standard phased approach. In the south west, RNLI lifeguards will begin patrolling 22* beaches across Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and the Channel Islands from Good Friday (2 April) covering the Easter holidays** - this includes, for the first time, Exmouth in Devon and Weymouth in Dorset.
The number of beaches will increase through the season until the peak school summer holidays when 87 beaches across the region will be patrolled.
In 2020, RNLI lifeguards covering the south west saved 56 lives, aided 9,179 people and responded to 6,287 incidents which included water rescues, minor first aid and helping to reunite missing children with their families.
Oliver Shilston, RNLI Lead Lifeguard Supervisor, said: "RNLI lifeguards are at the forefront of the charity's lifesaving work, offering preventative safety advice to visitors and rescuing those in difficulty in the water. Not only do they receive the best training but the best equipment too, so they are able to deal with any emergency situations as professional first responders.
"Each year the RNLI works in partnership with local authorities and landowners to set up and roll out the lifeguard service, which is complex in normal times even without the challenges of doing so during a pandemic. However, we have been here before, and with the added benefit of being able to plan ahead, we have developed contingencies should things change.
"The protocols and measures introduced last year because of coronavirus will continue. We are working with local authorities and landowners, who ask us to provide a lifeguard service on their beaches, to make sure the environment for lifeguards to return to is safe. We will continue to monitor the risk to our people and the public in relation to the pandemic."
The RNLI are encouraging the public to follow government advice on social distancing, travel and contact with others when visiting the beach to keep themselves and our lifeguards safe.
Steve Instance, RNLI Water Safety Lead for the south west, said: "RNLI lifeguards play a vital role in keeping beach visitors safe, but they can't be everywhere, so will be supported by the charity's 24/7 lifeboat service and water safety work.
"Coastal areas provide a great opportunity to enjoy fresh air and open space but it is important to remember it can be an unpredictable and dangerous environment, particularly during spring and early summer when air temperatures are warm but water temperatures remain dangerously cold, increasing the risk of cold water shock. We'd therefore remind anyone entering the water to take extra care and avoid unnecessary risks as early season conditions are more challenging.
"Whatever your chosen activity, basic precautions can greatly reduce the risk of getting into difficulty, and also improve your chance of being found quickly should you need rescuing. For activities like kayaking and paddleboarding we'd recommend you carry a means of calling for help on your person, such as a mobile phone in waterproof pouch, and ensure you are wearing the right kit. A wetsuit will keep you warm and help you float in an emergency, but wearing an appropriate buoyancy aid or lifejacket is still vital. For open water swimmers and dippers, please also remember to acclimatise slowly and be visible with a bright hat and float."
The RNLI is urging anyone choosing to visit the coast to make sure they keep themselves and their families safe by following beach safety advice:
If you are a local business near the coast you can help the RNLI share key water safety messages and save lives by becoming a local ambassador. As a local ambassador you can help be the eyes and ears in your community by helping the RNLI share important water safety messages with more people. To find out more visit: RNLI Volunteering Opportunities
*RNLI lifeguards will be on 22 beaches across the south west from Friday 2 April to 18 April. These are;
**Season dates will vary from Easter onwards and so people should visit rnli.org.uk for the most up to date information on when their chosen beach will be lifeguarded