Operation Safe Water took place today in Howth Harbour. The operation involves members from An Garda Siochana, the Irish Coast Guard and the Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI); the objective of the operation is to perform a safety review with water users visiting Howth Harbour in north County Dublin. The operation, the first of its kind in the country, brings the three agencies together with the single aim of improving safety awareness amongst boat users.
The RNLI Coastal Safety Team are performing safety checks on lifejackets. John McKenna, Howth RNLI Coastal Safety Officer commented, ‘”A lifejacket is useless if you don’t wear it, but it’s also important to maintain it properly. Three simple steps could help to save your life – check that the gas canister is in good condition and screwed in properly, the firing head is within its expiry date and that a crotch strap is attached securely.’

Declan Howard, Community Safety Officer with the Irish Coast Guard, Howth is leading a team reviewing the essential safety equipment boats entering the harbour should be carrying. “A roadside breakdown is an entirely different situation to one on the water, having no means of communicating your need for help can have grave implications for you as the boat drifts towards rocks or out to sea. The waters in Ireland can offer great enjoyment but if you ignore carrying some of the basic safety equipment you put your crew and yourself at risk of injury or worse”. He also commented “With no phone masts mobile phone reception is hit and miss on the water, you need another plan to get out of trouble”.

The operation also reminded people of the dangers of cold water. Currently Irish Waters are 13 degrees, falling overboard is easy and can happen in seconds, getting back into a boat or even a kayak is not so easy or quick. At 13 degrees with no protective clothing after 10-15 minutes hypothermia will commence and you’ll start to lose the ability to move arms and legs to stay afloat. Within an hour you could be unconscious. Survival is anywhere between 1 and 6 hours. If you’ve no way of letting the Coast Guard know you need help the alarm might be raised too late. Colin Murray, officer in charge, Irish Coast Guard unit in Howth commented “the job of the Lifeboats and the Coast Guard is to get to you within that hour, your job is to let us know you need help”, he added “that means having your kit and emergency plan ready before you go on the water – ie Marine VHF Radios, Flares, Protective Clothing etc. This is on top of our summer message No Life Jacket?, No Excuse. We want people enjoying the waters and coastline but going out prepared and not getting too complacent about the good weather.”

The inter agency approach brings all the stakeholders together with the aim of reducing the number of incidents on the water and coastline in the area and hopefully helping save lives, water safety booklets will be distributed in multiple languages.