RNLI appeal for waterside volunteers to help save lives on Broads waterways

Staff at pubs, bars and shops in the Broads National Park are being offered free training and equipment by the RNLI that could ultimately help prevent people drowning on the area’s waterways.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution, the charity that saves lives at sea, is running a pilot scheme which will supply potentially lifesaving “throw bags” to pubs at key locations, and train staff to use them when people get into distress in the water.

The ‘Waterside Community Responder’ scheme comes in the wake of official statistics that show in the last three years, 20 people drowned around the Broads.

Ben Mitchell, Community Safety Partner for the RNLI, said: This scheme is very straightforward – we’re offering to provide free training in how to use these throw bags, to the people and businesses that are most likely to witness people getting into difficulty in the water.

A throw bag is essentially a 20m floating line that when packed its own bag is weighted enough to be thrown to a casualty, it can then be used to pull the casualty to safety by the person throwing the bag.

Ben, who will deliver the training along with fellow members of Happisburgh RNLI Community Safety Team, continued: ‘Research shows that a significant proportion of drownings involve people visiting pubs and bars near water and then getting into distress. It could be someone taking a seemingly innocent swim and suffering cold water shock, or it could be through an accident where someone never intended to be in the water.’

‘Staff at these places will be our advocates in waterside environments, and are the ones most likely to be there at times where risk is most prevalent. The idea behind training staff or volunteers at pubs bars and restaurants is they will be able to encourage good behaviours in that environment by giving the public knowledge and advice, and they will ultimately know what to do if someone did enter the water.’

The initiative coincides with the RNLI’s annual national drowning prevention campaign, Respect the Water. The campaign aims to encourage people to make themselves aware of the potential dangers of the water and take steps wherever possible to minimise the risk of being on or near water. It is part of the charity efforts towards the goal of halving the number of accidental coastal deaths by 2024.

Some basic safety information the RNLI is urging people to remember is:

  • People who fall into cold water follow the same instinct, to gasp, thrash about and swim hard. But this is the worst thing to do – it increases chances of water entering your lungs and increases strain on your heart.
  • If you fall into cold water, fight your instinct to swim hard. Instead just float until you can regain control of your breathing before then trying to swim to safety or call for help. You’ll have a far better chance of staying alive.
  • If you see someone else in trouble in the water, fight the instinct to go in yourself. Call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.

Broads Authority Chief Executive, John Packman welcomed the Waterside Community Responder initiative when he said: ‘We want everyone to enjoy the waterways within our National Park safely. Thankfully the vast majority of the 8 million visits to the Broads every year pass without incident but any move that can help minimise the risk of tragic accidents has to be a good thing.’

The RNLI is now appealing for managers and staff at pubs, bars and restaurants to come forward and register their interest for training. More information can be found by visiting this website https://rnli.org/pages/throw-bag-training