If you are unlucky enough to be involved in an emergency situation on the coastline of Great Britain, the chances are that you will be rescued by a volunteer.
Because around the coast when an incident occurs and someone dials 999 or calls Mayday on the radio, Britain’s real fourth emergency service springs into action.
The call will be dealt with by one of the full-time manned Coastguard Operations centres, which will then page local Coastguard teams, the RNLI or independent lifeboat services dotted around the coast.
The majority of these people are all highly trained volunteers prepared to drop everything as soon as their pagers go to respond to a call for help.
Contrary to popular belief, HM Coastguard is Britain’s fourth emergency service, responsible for all maritime and coastal rescues and all helicopter search and rescue services since the closing of the RAF and Royal Navy SAR service.
Today’s Coastguard rescue officers are highly trained individuals – and there are 3,500 of them – all volunteers.
Coastguard rescue operations centres are manned by full-time staff and there are also full-time area commanders and operations officers but the guys and girls at the sharp end are all volunteers.
The service is currently short of volunteers all along the North East coast and it is looking for suitable candidates ready to start training in October.
Coastguard rescue officers perform a very wide ranging role, from searching for missing persons to recording details of mammals washed up on the beach for the Natural History Museum.
There is no typical job and all CROs are on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Of course, as a volunteer you are not expected to give up on holidays and not live a normal life. Your role fits in around you.
Ideally, candidates should be aged between 18 and 50, in good health and live and work within 20 minutes of their local Coastguard station. A willingness to commit to training at least one night a week and to other occasionally longer training sessions away from home is also necessary.
For an informal chat about the service, email Area5@mcga.gov.uk
Thanks to Blyth and Newbiggin Coastguard rescue teams for allowing coverage of their training sessions.