Becoming a volunteer

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I became a volunteer at Pett Level Independent Rescue Boat about two years ago when my neighbour, already a volunteer there, suggested I join the team.

It is extremely fulfilling to be part of a close-knit team working to prevent harm at the beach and to save lives at sea. The first week was very daunting, but you’re joining a team of local people with different skills, and no matter how little you know, you are welcomed with open arms. Working across the various teams, you are guided to develop your skills and knowledge, and encouraged to find a role in the team which suits your abilities and interests, and supports the work of the charity.

Because I was interested in volunteering as boat crew, I started by going out to sea in the rescue boat to get a taste of a lifeboat in action, to learn about sea craft and to understand what’s involved in search and rescue at sea. Preparation is also important, and jumping in and out of dry suits, and putting on life jackets and helmets all need to be practised so that you can respond quickly to a call out – a shout.

As a boat and base crew volunteer you gradually learn all the necessary skills, tying knots, assessing winds and currents, plus radio communication with the local coastguards and from base to the volunteers at sea or on the beach. No matter how much you know there is always more to learn once you get involved with sea rescue. To help you progress from a trainee to crew member, there is also an opportunity to take external courses and qualifications.

Common local emergencies include individuals, families and dogs being cut off by the tide, at the cliffs, on rocks or on sand bars. Inflatables and leisure craft can also run into difficulties offshore and we are sometimes called to rescue individuals on kayaks, assist with broken down vessels and rescue injured persons on the shore line.

During the peak season searching for missing children on local beaches is also a regular call-out, as well as giving first aid from our boathouse. We work in close cooperation with HM Coastguard, emergency services and the RNLI, and our mission is to save lives and promote water safety and beach safety awareness.

Pett Level Independent Rescue Boat, which was founded in 1971 by two fishermen, and is now part of the newly formed National Independent Lifeboat Association, is a charity run by volunteers and entirely self-funded. We depend on public donations, grants and sponsorship to maintain our operational services.

Although we’re a rescue boat responding to emergencies, it’s the hard work behind the scenes which keeps us afloat. There are plenty of roles which don’t involve being on the boat, supporting on the beach or running the base, but instead rely on volunteers with skills in administration, organisation, fundraising, PR and grant-seeking. If anyone is interested in these types of volunteer opportunities, we warmly invite you to get in touch.

Image Credits: Elizabeth Hojlund .

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