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RNLI Burnham Review Copy Feb 2017

The sun is out and the first sails can be seen making their way along the River Crouch. The new season has started and, as the river gets busier, the likelihood of someone getting into trouble increases.

2016 was a good year from the point of view of the volunteers of the Burnham on Crouch RNLI Lifeboat Station, with slightly fewer “shouts” and more time for training. However, the majority of people in the UK who drown each year never intended to go into the water, so advising people on how to prepare is difficult. At this time of year, with the water under 15 degrees the shock of the water sends your heart rate up and makes you hyperventilate. The effects will pass in anything up to a minute, which doesn’t sound long, but if you’ve fallen into the water unintentionally, that uncontrollable initial gasp for air can easily be under the water. Once more than half a pint of water enters your lungs, you begin drowning. Experienced cold water swimmers acclimatise their bodies gradually to avoid experiencing shock. People who fall in, however, can be overcome by it no matter how strong their swimming. In some cases, they never resurface. Prof Mike Tipton of Portsmouth University estimates that 60% of the UK’s drownings are a direct result of cold water shock.

168 people drowned accidentally in the UK’s tidal waters in 2015. This is the most since records began being collected in 2011, though the figures vary minimally – the lowest was 163. This compares with 113 deaths while cycling and 446 pedestrians killed on the roads. When you think about how many people go cycling it givers you an idea of the risk. I recall a few years ago a wheelchair user with a baby in her arms going into the river when she could not stop her wheelchair running out of control down a pontoon ramp. Luckily a passer by was able to jump in to save both and tragedy was averted, but it could so easily have been a different story for all three.

So for sailors, make sure you “de-Winterise” before taking the boat out; check drive shaft glands and water inlets or any potential point of entry such as echo sounder transponders, heat exchangers and holding tank outlets. And for all of you who don’t expect to go out on a boat all summer, but just want to enjoy being near the water, bear in mind you are at just as great a risk, if not more.

One place you should be safe is the naming ceremony for the new D Class Inshore Lifeboat naming ceremony which will take place on the 3rd of June. Work has already started on the boat at RNLI HQ in Poole, Dorset. The boat, which will be named David & Barbara Chapman is the fourth to have been provided by the generosity of this local family and will be numbered D806.

And another date for the diary is the station Open Day, which will take place on Saturday 8th of July. Proximity to the water should not be a problem there either.

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