People visiting Swale’s award-winning beaches this summer are being reminded to stay safe on the coast.
The beaches on the Island remain popular every year, and Swale Borough Council is again partnering with the RNLI to make sure people stay safe at Sheerness and Leysdown beaches.
Lifeguard cover began operating on Leysdown-on-Sea and Sheerness beaches seven days a week, from Saturday 8th July and will be there until Sunday 3rd September, having covered weekends and Bank Holidays since 27th May earlier this year.
Swale Borough Council has worked with the RNLI for the last 10 years to provide lifeguard cover at local bathing beaches, with incidents remaining low.
In recent years the RNLI has struggled to recruit local lifeguards and have been relying on bringing in people from other areas to cover our beaches. Now, for a range of global reasons, other areas are also struggling to recruit, so the pool of specially trained lifeguards is smaller.
Because of this, the RNLI have taken a decision based on risk assessments to prioritise the busy Leysdown beach, and Sheerness beach where the currents are more likely to catch people unaware. This means the quieter Minster Leas beach will not have a lifeguard presence this year, and despite meeting all of the rest of criteria such as water quality, will be unable to fly the Blue Flag.
Cllr Monique Bonney, committee chair for regeneration and property, told SFM News: “Every summer we welcome thousands of people to the Island to explore and have fun on our beaches and we want to make sure everyone has a safe and enjoyable visit, so they want to come back again. Having the RNLI lifeguards is a welcome reassurance to people, so we are disappointed we’ve not been able to have enough recruits to provide the usual level of cover. If you know of anybody interested, please let us know".
Cllr Bonney want on to add: "To help mitigate this, we are working to bring in some on shore first aid support – which is a large part of the work the lifeguards carry out – and we are working to remind people that they need to take care when in, on or around the water, regardless of whether there is a lifeguard in sight. There’s lots of information and advice on the RNLI website, and I’d urge everyone to have a look at their float to live advice. We want people to have a great summer on our beaches, and we encourage, where possible, people to visit a lifeguarded beach, know the risks, understand the flags, leave inflatables at home and stay safe.”
Charlie Frame, RNLI Lead Lifeguard Supervisor told SFM News: “We’re glad to be back on Sheppey this summer, and hope everyone visiting the coast has a safe and enjoyable time. We advise people to head to a lifeguarded beach, check the weather and tide times before visiting and if they do get into difficulty, or spot someone in trouble, call 999 and ask for the Coastguard. Despite our best efforts, we have struggled to find new recruits to fill all the roles we have, but we’re confident the cover being provided is appropriate for the risk profiles of the Island’s beaches. We did have several local people interested in what is a fantastic summer job, but they either didn’t complete their application or weren’t able to meet the necessary standard for working on open water.”
The charity is continuing to try and recruit lifeguards to cover Minster-on-Sea and as such the lifeguard unit will remain on the beach in case the service can be resumed at some point during the summer. If anyone is interested in lifeguarding they can go to: https://summerjobs.rnli.org/become-a-lifeguard/find-a-job
For more information about Swale’s beaches visit the council's website: www.swale.gov.uk/seafront.
For more information on beach safety in general: https://rnli.org/safety/beach-safety