2 May 2020
By Mary Bermingham
The Irish Coast Guard (IRCG) and RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) have called to the public not to take part in any water-based activity on or in the sea, over this Bank Holiday weekend, while the national emergency restrictions are in place. Both organisations are concerned that as the restrictions continue, people may become complacent and be tempted to take to the water or proceed to coastal areas for recreation. However, it is crucial to continue to minimise the risk to Search and Rescue (SAR) volunteer crews, Helicopter crew and other front-line emergency services, from being unintentionally exposed to COVID-19.
RNLI and Coast Guard Search and Rescue services continue to be fully operational and on call 24/7.
As the current COVID-19 restrictions continue to apply it is appreciated that people will want to get out for a break and take to the water if they are living or exercising near the coast or inland waters. However, both organisations are urging everyone to follow Government instructions, which are clear: stay home, protect frontline services and save lives.
There have been a number of callouts for the search and rescue services during this time, but the vast majority are to working fishing vessels and for medical issues. Some people have become isolated though exercising on unfamiliar tidal areas. SAR services including RNLI lifeboat service, Coast Guard Helicopter services and Coast Guard units are still available, but every callout has the potential to put additional pressure on SAR services and other front-line emergency services as well as potentially exposing them to COVID-19.
Kevin Rahill Water Safety Lead at the RNLI, said:
“We would ask those wanting to exercise in the water to consider the potential impact of their actions on RNLI lifeboat volunteers and other emergency services if they get into difficulty or if their presence would encourage others to join them. We would like to thank everyone who has heeded our message and stayed away. We know it is difficult when you may have been a regular water user and we are looking forward to seeing people visiting the coast and taking to the water when it is safe to do so, and the restrictions have been lifted.”
Gerard O’Flynn from the Coast Guard said,
“Now is not the time to become complacent. Please; Stay Home & Stay Back to Stay SAFE. Observe the 2×2 Rule. 2M physical distance & 2KM travel distance.”
“Arrangements are in place for Coast Guard services including Helicopters and Volunteer Coast Guard units to assist HSE, Gardai and Local Authorities in provision of community support and other logistical support. We need our people to stay healthy during this emergency to enable us support the national action plan.”
If you see somebody in trouble in the water or along the coast use VHF Ch 16 or Dial 112 (or 999) and ask for the Coast Guard.