Play a vital role in keeping people safe on the Northumberland coast

Coastguard Rescue Officers carry a casualty from the sea during a training session.
Coastguard Rescue Officers carry a casualty from the sea during a training session.

It is the fourth emergency service and its officers play a vital role in helping to keep people safe on the Northumberland coast and rescuing those who get into difficulty.

Now the Coastguard is on the look-out for people to join the service in the north of the county as their work becomes increasingly important.

Coastguard Rescue Officers in water-rescue training at Alnmouth.

Coastguard Rescue Officers in water-rescue training at Alnmouth.

Along the coast, dedicated teams of volunteers are on call 24 hours a day, ready to respond to their pagers in the event of coastal emergencies, controlled by a network of full-time Coastguard rescue centres, which have at their disposal specialist rescue teams, lifeboats and helicopters.

Bristow Helicopters Ltd will operate the search and rescue service for the UK on behalf of HM Coastguard, taking over from RAF and Royal Navy crews, such as 202 Squadron at RAF Boulmer which left last week. Two state-of-the-art Sikorsky S92 helicopters, pictured, will be based at Humberside Airport.

Coastguard teams in Howick and Seahouses are looking to recruit new members who are willing to make a long-term commitment to becoming a Coastguard rescue officer.

Howick Coastguard team, stationed at the country’s newest Coastguard Rescue Station at Craster, at the top of the hill near Craster Tower, is inviting anyone interested in joining to go along to the station on Tuesday, October 13, from 7pm until 9pm. Team members will be on-hand to talk through the role of a Coastguard rescue officer. The team has members who live in Alnwick, Boulmer, Longhoughton, Embleton and Newton-by-the-Sea.

Karen Larkin, Howick’s newest recruit, who has been with the team for two-and-a-half years, said: “I have always been involved in community-based activities but this one is the ultimate contribution to the community. While carrying out the role, you learn lots of new skills including map-work, compass bearings, first aid, radio communications and driving techniques.

“The list really is endless but the end result is potentially saving a life. It is voluntary and a commitment but it is great to be part of such a lovely team of people and it does become a huge part of your life. I absolutely love it.”

Seahouses Coastguard team is also hosting an open evening on Monday, October 12, at its station in Seahouses. Anyone living in and around the Seahouses area and interested in joining is more than welcome to go along to see what the service does.

Ian Stewart, station officer at Seahouses, who is employed by Tarmac Ltd as a weighbridge operator, said: “It’s the thought that we can and do help those who live, work and holiday on our coastline. It’s this thought that, over nearly 30 years as a volunteer 24/7, has instilled in me a great sense of pride.”

Greg Albrighton, area commander, said: “We expect a high level of commitment from all our coast rescue officers (CROs), both in terms of regular attendance at training sessions and response to incidents.

“Coastguard rescue teams are on-call on a 24-hours basis, which means making sacrifices in their personal lives.

“We also encourage employers to allow CROs to leave the workplace to attend incidents, when necessary. It is important that CROs have some daytime availability.

“They should live and work within reasonable travelling distance of the rescue station, with own transport being essential.”

The Coastguard teams can be called on to carry out a variety of tasks, including cliff rescues of both people and animals, water rescues, searches for missing persons, rescuing people cut off by the tide and small craft in difficulties.

They can also deal with explosive ordnance (discarded or washed up marine flares and old wartime munitions), when they set up a cordon to await a disposal team from the military, or man a helicopter landing site at a hospital.

The teams also play a key role in preventing loss of life at sea by carrying out safety talks to community groups and organisations and by carrying out regular coastal patrols.

Anyone interested in joining the Coastguard should go to one of the stations or email Area5@mcga.gov.uk for further details.

HM Coastguard – the facts

Her Majesty’s Coastguard is not a military force or law enforcement agency, but it is a uniformed service.

The forerunner of HM Coastguard service, the Preventative Water Guard, was established in 1809. Its primary aim was to prevent smuggling, but it was also responsible for giving assistance to shipwrecks.

HM Coastguard is a section of the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), which is responsible for the initiation and co-ordination of all civilian maritime search and rescue (SAR) within the UK.

Coastguard Rescue Service is made up of 352 teams located near the coast in stations around the UK. The teams consist of Coastguard Rescue Officers (CROs) who are volunteers trained to carry out rescues and provide assistance to those in distress on the UK’s coastline. There are about 3,500 CROs.