Lifeguards urge public to 'stay safe on staycation' as they expect another busy summer on the North East's beaches
The public has been urged to stay safe while on staycation as RNLI lifeguards get ready for what is set to be another busy season on the North East’s shores.
The Government's global travel taskforce is expected to make recommendations on restarting foreign travel in April but it is likely a lot of holidaymakers will be staying much closer to home again this year.
And following a busy 2020 for rescue teams in the North East, the life-savers on the regions shores are encouraging members of the public to stay safe while on their beach staycations.
Although official local figures have not yet been released, Sean Mills – lead lifeguard supervisor – says they had a lot more calls to incidents and rescues in 2020.
It comes as teams carry out training and fitness tests ahead of the start of the lifeguard season – where certain beaches will be monitored between May 29 and September 5 from 10am to 6pm.
The 40-year-old, of Boldon, said: “On our beaches here we saw a huge increase in people having staycations because of the current circumstances. We’d expect that if you’re coming to try and stay in your bubbles - if it’s prior to certain restrictions being lifted – ask lifeguards for some information on the local beach and stay safe.
"Year to year our calls vary but because of the staycations last year we had a lot more calls – we haven’t had any statistics as of yet from HQ – but there was a lot more incidents and rescues within the area.
"If you’re going on a staycation come to a lifeguarded beach, make sure that you come down with someone so if you do fall in the water they can go and get help.”
In 2020, RNLI lifeguards in North East England and Yorkshire saved five lives, aided 1,939 people and responded to 1,117 incidents which included water rescues, minor first aid and helping to reunite missing children with their families.
With uncertainty around foreign travel, the region’s beaches are expected to be packed again in 2021.
Sandy Kerr, lifeguard supervisor for South Tyneside and Sunderland, said: “Today we are doing all of our inductions and fitness tests, so every season the lifeguards have to come on and do a fitness test to show they are competent to work.
"As a service that we provide we ended up working right from the beginning of June until the end of September, we did see a lot of beach users when lockdown was lifted. Beaches were particularly busy and we’re expecting more of the same this year.”
Water sports and open water swimming have become even more popular during lockdown and, although the majority are very responsible, teams are reminding everyone who enters the water to be alert.
"There’s been a huge increase in all water sports in the area from surfing, kitesurfing and open water swimming,” added Sean. “It’s been recommended because there is a lot of positives from that for your physical and mental health.
"We’d urge people if they do go sea swimming to be done in pairs, let someone know your going and how long you will be. Also make sure you’ve got the right safety equipment."