“The Training We Receive
Can Be the Difference
Between Life and Death.”
“It’s impossible to explain the adrenaline rush when your pager goes off,” says Zoe, now into her fourth year as an RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) volunteer. “You just drop whatever you’re doing, dash for the station, get your gear on and launch the boat onto the water. No matter the weather or the state of the sea, if someone’s in trouble out there, you don’t hang around. One day I might need help myself – and I’d like to think that a stranger would do their best for me.”
For Zoe, that means leaving her job in a care home as quickly and as safely as she can and driving the few miles to Wick Lifeboat Station in the far north of Scotland. Operating an all-weather Trent-class lifeboat, it’s a busy station where crew members have been recognised 11 times by the RNLI for their lifesaving efforts.
But the willingness of Zoe and her 6,000 fellow RNLI volunteers to put themselves in danger to help people in peril on the seas around the UK and Ireland is based on their skills training. Only one in ten volunteers join the RNLI from a professional maritime occupation, underlining the need for crew members to be provided with first-class training, equipment, guidance and support. That’s why funding from Lloyd’s Register Foundation is so important. The Foundation supported the Crew Emergency Procedures course at the RNLI College in Poole, Dorset, from 2007 to 2020. The course teaches vital skills including practical sea survival, capsize training and how to use all-weather pyrotechnics such as flares.
“I attended the course two years ago and it was an incredible experience,” says Zoe, one of four women in the 30-strong volunteer team at Wick. The 25-metre-long wave-generating survival tank is unbelievably realistic. The instructors can add noise, torrential rain, wind and darkness into the mix – and then they capsize you. The training has given me the confidence that if I’m out on a shout and I have to go into the water, I’m going to be prepared. The skills I’ve learnt on the course will keep me safe so I can save lives.”