Lifeboat crews are dreaming of a quiet Christmas

Concerns about frivolous use of flares will keep RNLI crews on edge as they sit down to their turkey and trimmings.

The volunteers will, as usual, keep their pagers switched on throughout the festive season, ready to launch for any emergency. This year even RNLI lifeguards will be on watch at certain beaches busy with people walking off their lunches.

However, the Cowes crew have already responded to the Isle of Wight’s first (non-emergency) flare report, and more would be no surprise as people across the UK get caught up in the seasonal excitement.

New Year poses an even bigger risk of erroneous callouts as Chinese lanterns are set off in celebration. As reported in PBO’s December issue, these floating lights are easily mistaken for red flares which the public may report in good faith.

As Cowes’ lifeboat operations manager Mark Southwell says: ‘The lifeboat crew will always respond to a distress flare and treat it as a genuine emergency.

‘It would be useful if people thought through the consequences, especially in the run up to Christmas and New Year, as it will inevitably call our crews away from their friends and families.’

Besides wasting precious family time, any goose-chase ‘shout’ may tie up resources that could well be needed for a real emergency.

The Christmas-New Year period a year ago saw RNLI lifeboats launched 106 times, with 59% of rescues taking place in the dark. This year’s anticipated grim weather will make the task of the volunteer crews even more un-festive.