Page last updated at 12:03 GMT, Wednesday, 23 September 2009 13:03 UK

RNLI's safety calls 'get through'

Salcombe RNLI Lifeguards and lifeboat. Pic: Nigel Millard
The RNLI dealt with more than 4,400 incidents. Picture from Nigel Millard

Beach safety messages are getting through to people in Devon and Cornwall even though the number of call-outs increased this summer, the RNLI said.

The charity said a survey it carried out showed 45% of people saw or heard advice in 2009, up from 37% in 2008.

Cornwall saw a major increase in summer incidents the RNLI was involved with - from 3,090 from June to August in 2008 to 4,189 in the same period this year.

Devon saw a slight increase - from 1,283 in 2008 to 1,239 in 2009.

Cornwall's busiest beach for incidents was Perranporth, which had 479 call-outs. Devon's busiest was Woolacombe with 357 call-outs.

The charity said it spread its safety advice through a variety of means, including using its website, offering community education programmes and encouraging people to talk to its volunteers and read its signs on beaches.

The RNLI says cheaper equipment means more people are taking to the sea

But Steve Instance, the south west RNLI divisional inspector for lifeguards, said that the even though more people were aware of safety calls, beach users had to "think safety" at all times.

He said: "It is essential that beach users don't get complacent as conditions can suddenly become dangerous.

"Warm weather at the beginning of the school holidays in August coincided with spring tides and big surf conditions along the north coasts of Devon and Cornwall.

"With thousands of people flocking to the beaches, RNLI lifeguards worked hard to make sure people could have fun in the water while taking action if conditions changed.

"Despite these efforts, there was still a number of mass rescues over the season."

The mass rescues included more than 60 people needing lifeguards' help in four separate incidents in Cornwall in one day in August at beaches in Perranporth, Crooklets, Sennen and Godrevey.

The charity's lifeboats, however, were called out to slightly lower numbers of incidents during the same period.

Devon's nine lifeboat stations were called out on 213 shouts, down from 250 in 2008.

Cornwall's 14 stations dealt with 201 incidents, down from 205.

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