National Water Safety Forum


Coastal public rescue equipment

In recent years, beach owners and operators have been in doubt as to the most appropriate public rescue equipment (PRE) to be used at coastal locations. This has led to unsuitable equipment being installed and, in many cases, has been identified as a major factor contributing to deaths and injuries.

Public rescue equipment (PRE) in coastal areas must be appropriate for the features and conditions of the coastline and water. The equipment should be easy to use by members of the public with minimal hesitation and without putting the safety of the rescuer at risk.

The 50-page guide, A Guide to Coastal Public Rescue Equipment, was launched in the UK in June 2007. Copies have now been distributed to all UK coastal managers and private beach owners.

The guide is designed to help the reader select the most suitable solutions when managing PRE at a particular location. It is not only the type of PRE that is important, but also that it is positioned in the correct location and that maintenance and checking procedures are addressed and in place.

This guide also provides advice on emergency telephones and call points, auditing and locating methods such as information signs to advise the public where PRE is installed.

As with all beach management issues, decisions should be based upon a robust risk assessment process and regular reviews. The guide is intended to help beach operators decide the PRE requirement only if a need is identified through a beach risk assessment.

Remember, in some cases the results of a risk assessment could indicate that PRE is not required, such as some very shallow shelving beaches or areas where historically no incidents have occurred. However, PRE requirements should never be looked at in isolation; there are other control measures available that may complement or indeed replace PRE, such as education, signage, zoning or lifeguard services.

Over 500 public trials took place to identify the most effective PRE equipment. Research was also conducted on the following aspects of PRE: emergency communications, most suitable PRE locations, maintenance solutions, auditing tools and frequency of checks, PRE signage, user-instruction information and ways to reduce vandalism and theft.