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RNLI 'bottle' life rings costing 20p aim to cut drowning deaths all over the world

PUBLISHED: 09:45 19 July 2018 | UPDATED: 09:48 19 July 2018

Sheringham Primary School Year 4 pupil Emma tries out a life ring made from empty plastic bottles with the help of Cromer-based RNLI international programmes manager Stuart Thompson
Photo: KAREN BETHELL

Sheringham Primary School Year 4 pupil Emma tries out a life ring made from empty plastic bottles with the help of Cromer-based RNLI international programmes manager Stuart Thompson Photo: KAREN BETHELL

Archant

A RNLI life ring that could potentially save the lives of thousands of people all over the world has been put through its paces at a north Norfolk leisure centre.

Sheringham Primary School pupils at Splash to test a new life saving device with teacher Becky Robinson and RNLI  international programmes manager Stuart Thompson
Photo: KAREN BETHELLSheringham Primary School pupils at Splash to test a new life saving device with teacher Becky Robinson and RNLI international programmes manager Stuart Thompson Photo: KAREN BETHELL

Costing pennies to produce, the lifesaving device, which went through its second phase of testing at Splash, Sheringham, consists of three two-litre plastic drink bottles arranged in a triangle shape inside a fabric ‘sock’.

It was the idea of RNLI international programmes manager John Powell, who was tasked with coming up with an affordable, easy to produce piece of lifesaving equipment that could be used in poorer countries.

RNLI international programmes manager John Powell enlists the help of Sheringham Primary School Year 4 pupil Emma to test out a new life saving device he designed using plastic bottles
Photo: KAREN BETHELLRNLI international programmes manager John Powell enlists the help of Sheringham Primary School Year 4 pupil Emma to test out a new life saving device he designed using plastic bottles Photo: KAREN BETHELL

“Every other minute, a child drowns and in Bangladesh alone, 18,000 drown every year,” Mr Powell explained. “The RNLI has 200 years of expertise and we wanted to use that to help reduce those figures.”

After seeing bottle and hessian lifejackets used in fishing communities in the developing world, Mr Powell, who is based at the RNLI’s Poole headquarters, came up with the idea of producing the bottle rings.

“I wanted something easy to make that still provided buoyancy and the great thing is that they cost around 20p to produce - instead of the £40 life rings seen in higher income countries,” he said.

Mr Powell and his team began testing the rings in the UK and Bangladesh six months ago, with Cromer-based RNLI international programmes manager Stuart Thompson organising further tests at Sheringham.

The former Cromer lifeguard, who runs seafront café North Sea Coffee with his partner Becky Robinson, who is a teacher at Sheringham Primary School, said: “We wanted to work with people of all ages and because of Becky’s connection with school, we arranged for a group of pupils to join in.”

The youngsters joined a group of community members aged from six-86 to practice throwing and catching the rings.

“It seemed quite intuitive to them, they really enjoyed it and it was definitely useful from a testing point of view,” Mr Thompson said.

Mr Powell said the next phase of the project will be to produce instruction manuals.

“An estimated 400,000 people drown every year and nine out of ten of those are children, so we hope that by producing something poorer countries can manufacture themselves, we can help change that,” he said.

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