Seven ways to stay out of trouble on Norfolk's beaches this summer
- Credit: Archant
Summer 2021 is in full swing, but with more people holidaying in the UK this year and the recent spell of hot weather, coastguards in Norfolk are on full alert.
Across the UK 26 people have drowned since mid-July after getting in trouble in lakes, beaches, rivers and quarries, reinforcing the message that water can be fatal.
Last month a man drowned at Bawsey Pits near King's Lynn and with more fatalities last year, the EDP and its sister papers have launched the Play It Safe, Be Water Aware campaign to ensure visitors to Norfolk's waters stay safe.
Jen Hill, senior coastal operations manager for HM Coastguard in the Norfolk area said: "Our message for this summer is clear. We realise it's been a difficult 18 months for people due to Covid and that people want to come to beaches to relax and we are 100% behind that.
"But we want people to understand that they can't take risks and they need to minimise the chance of getting into danger.
"Sadly there are always a few cases each year when this happens, but we want to spread the message that people just need to be sensible, take notice of warnings and enjoy themselves.
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"Our job is so varied, we can be dealing with people on sea walls, people with injuries, lilos out at sea, children who have lost their parents, parents who have lost their children and swimmers in difficulty.
"When the weather isn't so good we are still prepared to be busy as we can get all sorts of call outs. Fewer people on the beaches probably means fewer children getting lost as it's colder and less fun to be on the beach, but we still operate and still get calls out."
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Jen, 37, originally trained as a science teacher but a love of sailing, including time spent working in the Mediterranean eventually led to her senior coastguard role. Now she is one of six operation managers in East Anglia patrolling an area that stretches from Hunstanton down to Tilbury in Essex.
"People need to respect the sea, to be aware of it and to learn from experience," she said.
"My most important message is that if anyone sees anyone in trouble or if they are in trouble themselves, please don't hesitate and call 999 and ask for the coastguard.
"We don't mind getting called out if it's in good faith, even if it turns out we are not needed. It's really better to be safe than sorry, so please call us."
With information that is useful to holidaymakers in this region, day-trippers and locals, Jen offers advice in seven key areas that can help you enjoy your summer visit in safety.
"Please only swim on beaches that are for holiday makers. We have a number of lifeguarded beaches and they are the ones to swim at. Don't swim off other beaches.
"Please swim between the flags on our beaches and if you do get in trouble, the message is, don't panic. We have a 'Float to Live' campaign which encourages people not to panic but instead to lie on their back, try and relax and float. If you start to panic and splash you won't be doing yourself any favours.
"I'd also say to people who get caught in a rip tide to swim parallel to the shore rather than against the current.
"Even an Olympic swimmer would find it hard to swim against a rip tide. We don't get many in this part of the world, but if you are caught in one, swim away from it, keeping parallel to the shore before moving in towards the shore when you are out of it.
"There's a growing community of coastal swimmers who are very competent and very good at checking tides, some are less confident than others, but there are all sorts of flotation aids which they can use which we'd advise too."
"The most important message with children is to keep them under close supervision. We all know children love to run into the sea and splash around and there may be a temptation to give them a bit of space, but please keep an eye on them at all times.
"We are always dealing with lost children and we are happy to help, but often it's simply a case of a child being given too much space on the beach and simply losing their bearings."
Lilos and inflatables
"Lilos are a big issue. They are bright, colourful and fun, but they are really only meant for a swimming pool, or any water area that has a wall. The sea doesn't have any walls and it's so easy and so quick for a bit of fun to turn into something worse.
"As soon as they are out of arm's reach that's when you're asking for trouble.
"There was a recent incident in Scotland of two boys swept out in a toy boat - it wasn't even an inflatable - fortunately they were OK.
"Lilos are a bad idea at the seaside."
"This is a danger area and we'd urge people to stay off groynes and not climb on them or jump off them. Tiny currents can run between groynes which can pull you under and people can slip and get feet trapped in them which isn't great when the tide is coming in."
"The RNLI have a campaign called Don't Drink and Drown. We all know that alcohol and water don't mix and the effects of alcohol can impair your judgement. Most people are sensible but the message remains that the sea and rivers can kill, so please be sensible with things like drink at the beach or on a boat on a river of the Norfolk Broads."
"People obviously come to the beach to relax but they can become complacent, especially this year when we are anticipating one of our busiest summers ever. I think part of the issue is that people are used to traveling to places like the Mediterranean which is non-tidal and then they come to Norfolk and have no idea of what a tide actually is.
"Often they are non-locals and they don't understand the phenomenon of a tide. We've even had people call the coastguard because the tide has gone out and they don't get why.
"The information regarding tides is readily available online and often displayed at coastguard huts along the coast."
"There are other real dangers in Norfolk and one people don't perhaps think about is cliffs, particularly in places like Cromer.
"They can become very unstable, particularly after periods of heavy rainfall like we've had this year.
"There are dangers of people going to close to the edge, which although possibly great for pictures, it's a really bad idea.
"We've also got concerns about people sitting under cliffs which can also be dangerous. If anyone sees people near cliffs or sitting near cliffs then please call the coastguard. We are more than happy to send a patrol out to issue safety advice, we firmly believe in a prevention strategy and we are willing to educate people on dangers they may be unware of."
Play It Safe, Be Water Aware
The Eastern Daily Press and its sister papers, the North Norfolk News and Great Yarmouth Mercury, have launched the Play It Safe, Be Water Aware campaign to ensure visitors to Norfolk's waters stay safe.
David Powles, EDP editor, said: "Norfolk and Suffolk are blessed with some wonderful places to enjoy water, with miles and miles of stunning coastline and the beautiful Broads.
"However, in recent years there have been several signs that perhaps people are not fully aware of the dangers which can lay beneath and are not fully preparing themselves before going into the water.
"In 2020 we sadly saw several tragedies both on the coast and inland and already this summer there has been one tragic death of a young man.
"We want to spread more awareness to those looking to enjoy our waters and hope this campaign will do just that, plus encouraging shopkeepers and businesses in popular areas to display our specially designed posters."
Our Play it Safe water safety posters can be purchased at www.norfolkstore.co.uk