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Joe and Petunia "Dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard"

The Joe and Petunia public information film was released in 1968. We have been part of the 999 network for over 50 years but our message is still the same: if you see someone in trouble at the coast “call 999 and ask for the Coastguard”.

If you get into trouble or you see someone who needs help, call 999 and ask for the Coastguard or, if you are deaf or have a speech impairment, you can send an emergency SMS

About HM Coastguard

Coastguards on a cliff

HM Coastguard is the national maritime 999 service for search and rescue. When someone is in trouble, one of our control rooms will coordinate the response, which might include sending coastguard rescue teams, helicopters or lifeboats 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

For schools, groups and parents, we have seaside safety activity books that are available to order online free-of-charge

Beach dangers

Crowded beach in England

When you visit the beach, make sure it is a life-guarded beach and that you swim between the flags (find out more on safety flags on the RLSS website). Always make sure you keep an eye on children and ask your beach if they have a local wristband scheme which helps identify children if they wander off.

 

  • Digging in the sand: although usually harmless, digging large holes can be dangerous if the sand caves in. Avoid digging tunnels or deep pits below waist height and fill in any holes you dig before you leave the beach.
  • Inflatables: inflatables can be swept out to sea by currents and offshore winds. If you get swept out to sea stay with your inflatable and shout for help. If you see an inflatable that’s been blown away to sea, call 999 Coastguard.
  • Rip currents: these are difficult to spot, and even the most experienced swimmers can be caught off guard. Choose a life-guarded beach and swim between the red and yellow flags.

For other downloadable activities for kids about seaside safety, visit the Colin the Coastguard website

Coastal hazards

Dramatic coastal scenery

Cliffs can be more unstable than they look, and cliff falls/landslides can happen without warning. Take note of warning signs, don’t climb fences to get to the edge and never climb the cliff as a short cut to the top.

 

  • On the rocks: to avoid getting caught out by the tide, check the weather and tide times before going out. Also avoid slippery and unstable rocks, take notice of signs, don’t climb up cliffs and be careful in sea caves so you don’t get trapped.
  • Dog walking: dogs can get into trouble whilst exploring, so always keep them on a lead at the coast especially near cliff edges. If they get stuck on a ledge, in mud or swept out to sea, don’t go after them. Most dogs make it back safely, but you might not.
  • Mud and quicksand: Avoid crossing bays and walking through mud where there can be hidden channels of fast-flowing water. If you do get trapped, spread your weight evenly across the surface, and stop others from trying to help you, as they might get stuck too.

Always take a phone and use the free RYA SafeTrx app to track your activity

In the sea

Boat in the sea

Swimming, surfing, kayaking, boating, paddle boarding; there are many ways to enjoy your time in the sea. But whatever your activity, always think about the following:

 

  • Boat users: wear a lifejacket, carry the correct means of communication, use a kill cord and kill switch and know how to use them
  • Scuba divers: familiarise yourself with new or different gear before planning deep dives and dive within your limits. Never dive alone
  • In more remote locations, carry a 406 Personal Locator Beacon
  • Carry a VHF marine band radio (fitted with DSC if possible) and learn how to use it. In an emergency call the Coastguard on channel 16

You can find further advice on the RNLI, RYA and Met Office websites.

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