Three pictures that show the new style of lifejacket. Two are of those that will be provided for the volunteer crews of the all-weather lifeboats, while the third photograph is of the design to be used by the crews of the RNLI’s inshore lifeboats. Please credit RNLI/Nigel Millard.
Volunteers at the 35 RNLI lifeboat stations in the south west* are supporting a campaign to raise the £220,000 needed to buy them all new lifejackets. Many will be using the charity’s annual SOS day on 27 January 2012 to collect the funds needed. The two brand new types of lifejacket were designed through joint collaboration between the RNLI and the manufacturer to meet the charity’s current search and rescue requirements.
It was back in 1854 that an RNLI Inspector called Captain Ward invented a cork lifejacket that proved a lifesaver on numerous occasions. But since those days, the charity has always looked to advance and improve its safety equipment, from kapok lifejackets to Beaufort lifejackets and the present day design.
As Adrian Carey, RNLI Divisional Inspector for the south west explains, the charity believes its volunteer crews deserve the best possible equipment:
‘We ask our volunteers to put themselves in difficult and dangerous situations and its only right that we provide them with the best equipment, whether they are lifeboat crew or the shore crews who help launch and recover the lifeboats. We have worked closely with our volunteers, including some from the south west, to bring a wealth of detailed feedback into the development process for these lifejackets. What we have produced is a custom designed lifejacket for our committed volunteer crews to wear that will allow them to carry out their lifesaving role safely, and is fit for the maritime search and rescue environment in which they operate.
‘The new lifejackets will provide increased safety for all sizes and shapes of volunteers with a comfortable, secure fit leading to increased efficiency and effectiveness in lifesaving. They are fitted with crotch straps, which prevent the lifejacket riding up over the wearer’s head when in the water, and an integrated harness, designed to pull the lifejacket away from the neck allowing greater freedom of movement while rescuing people. There are also zipped pockets for casualty care kit, torches, gloves or knives and a spray hood designed to protect the wearer from sea spray. Ultimately the improved lifejackets should lead to increased effectiveness in lifesaving.’
Each lifeboat station in the south west has been given a target to raise a specific amount of money, depending on the number of lifejackets needed and already the local fundraising teams are busy planning events. As Anna Classon, RNLI Fundraising and Communications Manager for the south west, explains, the rallying cry has gone out to the stations and its all hands to the pump:
‘This is a golden opportunity for people to support their local lifeboat volunteers as they raise the money for vital lifesaving equipment and I hope communities across the south west will get behind the campaign and the many events that will be happening.
‘RNLI stations and their supporters are renowned in the south west for pulling out all the stops for SOS Day; the charity’s biggest fundraising event that will take place on Friday 27 January 2012. SOS themed events have included Surfing Off Scotland, Swift On Saddles, Soap Our Saloons and more. Money raised will go towards the new Lifejackets for Lifesavers campaign and present another occasion for people to support their local lifeboat station’s fundraising efforts or to hold an event of their own. For more information or inspiration, you can visit www.rnli.org.uk/sos’
There’s also good news about the old lifejackets that are to be replaced by the new design. The RNLI will be recycling many parts of the lifejackets that are coming to the end of their operational lives, from steel and brass components to the fabric. This will ensure the charity will generate some money to offset the cost of the new lifejackets, while making their disposal environmentally friendly.