The capacity to raise the alarm and stay afloat is essential to reducing loss of life from drownings at sea or on inland waterways.
“If you can raise the alarm and you can stay afloat then you have an outstanding chance of being rescued by our world-class rescue service,” remarked Chris Reynolds, Irish Coast Guard director.
‘Stay Afloat – Stay in Touch’ highlights the importance of never engaging in any commercial or recreational boating activity without wearing a fully serviced life-jacket or personal flotation device, along with capacity to raise the alarm via VHF Radio, Personal Location Beacon or mobile phone.
The Irish Coast Guard’s end-of-year review for 2018 records more than 1,100 missions by volunteer units and over 400 lives saved. The Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre in Dublin processed 137 electronic transmissions the majority of which were false, arising from accidental activation or out-of-date equipment no longer in service.
ICG stresses however this should not detract from their value and urges all users to be familiar with their operational and inbuilt test mechanisms.
Three rescue coordination services (Malin Head, Valentia Island, Dublin) operate on a 24/7 basis. In 2018 2,650 incidents were managed, up from 2,503 in 2017.
Helicopter services at Dublin, Shannon, Waterford and Sligo (670 missions in 2018) are on a 15-minute notice by day and 45 minutes by night. In addition to their primary role of maritime search and rescue, the ICG provides a 24-hour medical evacuation service for offshore islands.
The nationwide network of volunteer coastguard units comprising over 1,000 volunteers is an integral part of the search and rescue framework who provide rescue boat, cliff rescue and shoreline search services and support communities during local emergencies.
Volunteers are an integral part of community resilience and act as the eyes and ears of rescue services by assessing and responding to coastal emergencies, says ICG director, Chris Reynolds.
“I want to particularly acknowledge the commitment and professionalism of our volunteer members.”
The RNLI is categorised as a ‘declared resource’ to the ICG which means that each individual station can be directly requested to respond to local incidents. In 2018, the RNLI was requested to launch on 836 occasions.
The ICG attaches particular attention to ‘lives saved’ which refers to assistance provided without which would have resulted in loss of life or severe risk of loss of life or protracted hospitalisation. In 2018, more than 400 people were classified as ‘lives saved’, compared to 340 in 2017.
Into 2019 the Coast Guard will continue to focus on the importance of prevention as a core theme of drowning prevention and will again work with Irish Water Safety, RNLI and the Irish Sailing Association to promote water safety and to identify key risk areas. The Safety on the Water website will also be relaunched in early Spring.
If you see somebody in trouble in the water, Dial 112 or 999 and ask for the coast guard.