On the Fylde Coast, two HM Coastguard Rescue Teams look after safety on our shoreline – the Fleetwood and Lytham Coastguard.
HM Coastguard is manned by about 3500 volunteers who are on call 365 days of the year and staff 350 teams across the UK – of which Lytham and Fleetwood are two. Their activity is controlled by the centre at Holyhead.
The Lytham team cover 40 miles of coast and river estuary to Preston and Blackpool up to the Gynn.
The Fleetwood team share the RNLI building on the Esplanade at Fleetwood and they cover from the Gynn heading north along the Cleveleys and Fleetwood coastline, the River Wyre and up to Cartford. The two teams often work together.
Above high water the Police would be responsible for incidents, and below high water is the remit of the Coastguard. Obviously the Police and Coastguard will often work together, and the RNLI will be deployed when incidents take place in the sea.
Our Coastguard teams are trained in search, water and mud rescue and practice these skills on a regular basis – because training helps them to do things automatically. All the Coastguard teams undergo exactly the same training, and they all use exactly the same kit so that if they work together their equipment and skills are interchangeable and a rescue can be carried out seamlessly.
Every three years the volunteers are requalified, and over time progress in their training to become a technician who is the person who actually carries out a rescue on site.
Dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard
If you’ve called 999 and asked for the Coastguard or set off a distress alert at sea, what happens next?
Your call will be connected to a Coastguard Officer who will ask you a series of detailed and structured questions to establish exactly where you are what help you need.
Because there are a large number of places in the UK with very similar or even exactly the same name the Coastguards use a highly detailed mapping system alongside these questions to confirm your exact location. They will then use their search and rescue planning expertise to send the right people with the right equipment to help you.
You could be helped by our Coastguard Rescue teams who search for missing people or rescue people from coastal mud and cliffs. If you are on a lifeguarded beach we will contact the lifeguard service. If you are in difficulty out at sea a lifeboat will be asked to help you and if you need urgent medical attention or are missing at sea we will often send one of our specialist search and rescue helicopters.
Sinking Sand and Mud
Our beaches are a beautiful resource that we should all enjoy, but we should also be aware that there are hidden dangers. In the same way, motorways are a wonderful thing when you want to go somewhere quickly but you wouldn’t walk across two carriageways at rush hour – get the most enjoyment that you can from the beach and sea but don’t take risks that you don’t need to.
Beaches are a natural landscape. They vary every day as the tide goes in and out and they vary from one patch to another with the natural geology of the beach.
1. Always take your mobile phone with you – the signal isn’t always perfect but it’s better than leaving it on the kitchen table where it’s no use at all!
2. Be aware of sandbanks when the tide is coming in – don’t get cut off
3. Be aware of sinking sand and mud – if you put one foot down and it feels soft and ‘givey’ don’t carry on in that line – vary your route around what is probably an isolated patch.
If you do feel yourself sinking DON’T PANIC. Reverse your route out if you can. Spread your weight by kneeling, sitting or laying down and crawl out if possible. If it’s not working immediately, call 999 and ask for Coastguard. They’ll be with you as quickly as possible.
If the Coastguard do attend, they have specialist footwear – a bit like snowshoes – to spread their weight. They have specialist equipment with which to get you out of the sinking sand or mud. And they have specialist training so they know how to do it safely without creating any more casualties.
If you spend any time on the beach you’ll know that the oddest things get washed to shore!
Every so often an incendiary device gets found, usually with much excitement, but do you know where they come from?
Apparently at the end of the war, fishermen were paid to dispose of old bombs. They were paid to take them far out to sea and drop them into the depths of Lune Deep where they would be no trouble to anyone (or so they thought).
Unfortunately, because they were paid per trip, a lot of the fishermen took a short cut and the bombs didn’t quite make the depths, so every so often an odd one washes back to shore.
Beach safety and sandbanks
Follow Fleetwood Coastguard on Twitter @FleetwoodCG
Fleetwood Coastguard on Facebook
Follow Lytham Coastguard on Twitter @LythamCG
Lytham Coastguard search and rescue vehicle at Blackpool RNLI open day
Beach safety sign at Fleetwood
Sandbank forming at Cleveleys with the incoming tide