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RNLI Burnham Review August 2017

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You are walking along the quay and you see someone who appears to be struggling in the water.
What do you do? Jump in to save them? How about this one, you are out on a boat and you fall in
the water. You are not wearing a life jacket. What do you do? Immediately set off swimming to get
back to the boat?

The correct answer is not necessarily the one you would instinctively choose. Jumping into the water
to save someone is more likely to make you an additional casualty than effect a rescue. If you fall
into cold water, you are usually better off regaining your breath and losing any clothing preventing
you from floating or swimming, before you make a decision on what to do next. These split second
decisions are counter intuitive, but making the right decision could save a life.

Knowing what to expect and practising how to react are factors which override the instinctive
reactions we all have. For example, in cold water, you save more heat by floating than by swimming.
Of course, if you are six feet from a ladder, you swim to it, but only after you have got your breath.
Panic is the biggest killer. These lessons and lots more are available on the RNLI Web Page
https://rnli.org/safety/know-the- risks. The critical pieces of advice can be summed up as “float to
live” and Dial 999.

With Burnham Week approaching the increased traffic on the river and the combination of alcohol
and boats usually produces a busy time for the Burnham on Crouch RNLI Lifeboats. In time, if the
proposed coastal path from Maldon to Burnham is brought into being, the number of people
enjoying this part of the country will increase. The fact is that the more people are in close proximity
to the water the greater the chances of some of them getting into trouble.

No doubt, everyone reading this is a paragon of lifesaving practicality. The volunteer crew of the
Lifeboat, most of whom are experienced sailors and in many cases work on or near the water, all
take a survival course at the RNLI Lifeboat College in Poole, Dorset. Part of this means taking a
dunking in a tank of water at the average temperature experienced around the UK coast. They all
profess themselves surprised at the difficulty of getting your breath back as the effects of cold water
shock take effect in the first few seconds following immersion. Even in a controlled situation it would
be easy to surrender to panic. No one who has done this exercise takes it for granted that an
unplanned entry into cold water is nothing more than a shock to the system.

Volunteer crew from Burnham RNLI on the Atlantic 85

Volunteer crew from Burnham RNLI on the Atlantic 85

So when you are enjoying the river this August, be aware of the danger. If you see someone getting
into trouble, don’t be afraid to dial 999. If you are going racing, practise Man OverBoard drill and
wear a lifejacket. It doesn’t matter how strong a swimmer you are. No-one can swim if they have
been knocked unconscious by the boom before going overboard. Enjoy the Week, by all means, but
you will enjoy it all the more by staying safe.


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