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Lifeguards Return to Scarborough South Bay

Lifeguards Return to Scarborough South Bay

Published by Jon Burke at 6:11pm 29th May 2020. (Updated at 8:33am 30th May 2020)

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is urging anyone planning to visit the coast to make sure they follow safety advice to keep themselves and their families safe.

The reminder comes as the RNLI begins the first phase of its lifeguard service roll out, with patrols starting on Saturday 30 May at Scarborough South Bay beach.

Recent hot weather and the easing of lockdown rules has led to thousands of people flocking to beaches and a busy period for the charity’s volunteer lifeboat crews.

Despite the challenges posed by coronavirus and social distancing, the RNLI says it hopes to provide a lifeguard service on around 30% of the beaches the charity usually covers in time for the traditional peak summer season. The remainder of these beaches will be confirmed as soon as possible. 

Scarborough South Bay has been chosen as the first beach where lifeguards are returning to service following an extensive risk assessment process, taking in overall visitor numbers and the high number of incidents requiring lifeguard intervention in previous seasons. Complementary rescue service and surveillance, including Coastguard and RNLI lifeboat stations, has also been taken into consideration.

Since the easing of restrictions, the charity has focussed on re-establishing the infrastructure required for its lifeguard service. During a normal summer, this takes time and includes recruitment, training, and the ordering and distributing of equipment and facilities to beaches. During a pandemic it is a task made more complicated by the charity’s responsibility to make sure lifeguards are operating safely. 

This year, the charity also had to ensure lifeguards are equipped with the appropriate PPE and have received training and support in new operating procedures and precautions needed to manage the challenges of coronavirus alongside the other demands of their role.

This means the lifeguard service will look a little different this year. Lifeguards will wear PPE similar to ambulance crews in some situations. New protocols for all first responders mean the lifeguards may not deal with some minor first aid cases but will support people to treat themselves. They will also try to keep socially distant from beach goers, and may need to adopt different patrol methods at times, such as not using the red and yellow flags and asking people to keep apart but close to shore, to help keep people safe while maintaining social distancing.

Darren Lewis, RNLI Lifesaving Manager, said:

‘As ever, the welfare of our staff and beach visitors along with our commitment to providing a responsible lifesaving service is the RNLI’s priority and so we have been working closely with Scarborough Borough Council to make sure that conditions are safe for our lifeguards to provide an effective service.

‘Our lifeguards have a vital role in making sure visitors to the beach are aware of their surroundings, the potential dangers at the beach and providing a lifesaving rescue service should anyone get into trouble. We would encourage the public to follow the Government’s advice on social distancing and take care to understand the risks at the coast and the necessary steps to keep themselves safe.’ 

A spokesperson for the team responsible for beaches and bathing waters at Scarborough Borough Council said:

“We echo the RNLI message to follow safety advice when visiting our beaches and avoid putting yourself and others, including the emergency services, at unnecessary risk.

We understand the need for a phased reintroduction of the lifeguard service, starting with the higher level of demand at Scarborough South Bay. We will continue to work with the RNLI on when their service can be safely reinstated at other beaches in our borough.”

Anyone planning a visit to the coast should remember and follow RNLI safety advice:

  • Have a plan - check the weather forecast, tide times and read local hazard signage
  • Keep a close eye on your family – on the beach and in the water
  • Don’t allow your family to swim alone
  • Don’t use inflatables
  • 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

A spokesperson for the charity said:

“​​​We’ve been working hard to put on a lifeguard service as quickly as possible in the middle of the pandemic, with all the new challenges that involves.

The phased roll-out of lifeguards on beaches began last weekend, when they returned to their patrols at St Ouen beach in Jersey. This weekend, there will be lifeguard patrols on a further 16 beaches in England and we will be rolling out to a total of 70 beaches over the next few weeks”.

Besides Scarborough’s South Bay, the other beaches are Bournemouth East, Broadstairs (Viking Bay), Camber Central, Constantine, Crosby, Croyde, Fistral, Gwithian, Longsands, Mawgan Porth, New Brighton, Perranporth, Polzeath, Sea Palling and Widemouth.

The spokesperson added:

“Once the 70 beaches are rolled out, and there is no further spike in coronavirus or the reintroduction of restrictions, we are planning to put lifeguards on many more beaches over the summer season”.


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