Maritime and Coastguard Agency

Maritime Safety Week: How technology could save your life

July 02, 2021 Maritime and Coastguard Agency
Maritime and Coastguard Agency
Maritime Safety Week: How technology could save your life
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Maritime and Coastguard Agency
Maritime Safety Week: How technology could save your life
Jul 02, 2021
Maritime and Coastguard Agency

Got all the right kit for going out to sea with your paddleboard or kayak? This podcast explores the kind of technology that could help you get out of trouble if things go wrong while you're out.
This podcast talks to Her Majesty's Coastguard's technical gurus for some top tips on staying safe.

Show Notes Transcript

Got all the right kit for going out to sea with your paddleboard or kayak? This podcast explores the kind of technology that could help you get out of trouble if things go wrong while you're out.
This podcast talks to Her Majesty's Coastguard's technical gurus for some top tips on staying safe.

Heather

Hello, and welcome to the latest maritime and coastguard agency podcast. Today we're talking about technology, particularly the technology that could keep you safe at the coast and could say vital time if things go wrong, and you need help with me to talk all things technical when it comes to the coast, who better than some of my colleagues from Her Majesty's Coastguard. Matt Leat is Head of Infrastructure, and Cheryl Clifford and Tim Kendal are both staff officers with technical services. So let's talk this through. I'm a newbie and I want to learn paddleboarding, I've got the right kit, you know in terms of life jackets, leashes, all that sort of thing. What I may not have thought about Matt Leat is perhaps, what tech I need to be carrying to give myself the best chance of keeping safe.

Matt

I think there's there's a number of options that are out there at different price points. But many of them are really accessible. And hopefully, between the three of us, we'll be able to talk you through some of those. So I'll start off with something that everybody's got pretty much nowadays is a mobile phone, taking a mobile phone out with you putting it in a waterproof case, and gives you the opportunity to be able to dial 999 and also the Coast Guard. And through that, you can tell us where you are what's going on, if you see somebody in trouble, or if you're in trouble yourself. And through that, we can also very quickly get some location information from that service. And that helps us narrow down your position. But there are other ways that you can use your mobile phone. So Tim, do you want to cover off some of the apps that we may be able to look at?

Tim

Yeah, I guess we live in the age of the app, don't worry, there's there's an app for everything. And sure enough, there's quite a few apps out there that can be really useful. Whether you're on the coast or anywhere, really, particularly in terms of location. We've mentioned smartphones, many of them have got GPS in them. And so you can use apps like Google Maps, or Ordnance Survey maps, or what free words or any of these kind of location apps to also help with pinpointing where exactly you are on the beach or off the coast, and pass that information through to us over the phone, a really simple way of letting us know where you are. And also some details about the vessel you might be on. It's an app called SafeTrx, the RYA, Royal Yachting Association, safe tracks is an app, you can download onto your phone, and put in information about the vessel or boat that you're on. And you can even upload your passage plan. So if you've got a journey coming up, you can put in the course you're going to take the time you're planning to leave and when you expect to arrive at your destination. But even more importantly, you can put in emergency contacts. So that if you do get into trouble or are kind of overdue, arriving at your destination, then that app will notify your emergency contacts, whether that's next of kin, or a friend. And that can then enable them to help you get the help you might need.

Matt

I was just gonna say, Tim, I think as well, what's really good about sort of SafeTrx as an app is that it's free, you know, it doesn't cost anything. And I think from a coastguard perspective, we get some real great benefits from it. So we get a really good description of your vessel. So if you are in distress, it's not always easy to be able to sort of pass all the key bits of information we need for unsafe tracks, you can attach a picture, you can give us all the dimensions of your vessel. And it's a real simple way to help us help you, you know if you're in trouble.

Tim

Yeah, absolutely. And I should probably say, even if you've got kind of location tracking switched on within safe tracks, you know, mm hm coastguard isn't sat there, watching you kind of monitoring your every move or anything. It's your location is being updated to the app. But but we're not, we're not seeing that unless you get into difficulty. And then, as you say, Matt, at that point, we can really make the most of all the information that's in there. You know, and look back at your kind of last known position, and as you say, all of those details about the vessel itself. And that's a really helpful piece of information. It's not the only piece of information that we would use. When we were kind of tasking a lifeboat or helicopter or some form of kind of search and rescue asset. But it's a really key piece of information that we can use to build a really good picture of who's in distress and where they are and get the right help to the right place.

Heather

Let's bring in Cheryl, Cheryl, you know, there's obviously quite a bit around. What other things could I perhaps be looking at?

Cheryl

So, I'm really keen paddle boarder, and things that people can look for are personal locator beacons. And so these work similarly to EPIRBs, which are normally on vessels, and it uses satellite communications to pinpoint someone's location. Now, at the coastguard, this is so important, and the technology around personal locator beacons. And EPIRBs has grown so much. And it's such an accurate way of detecting someone. And the great thing about personal locator beacons is over the years, they have really come down in price. So they're really affordable now. So for something that is really, really accurate, that is very small, that you can paddle and it won't get in the way of you actually putting your paddle in the water, and something that could potentially save your life if you do enter the water.

Heather

And Matt, that's really important, isn't it? Because if we're asking people to rely on tech to help them if things go wrong, of  course we hope it doesn't go wrong, but if it goes wrong, you want to know that that tech is going to work and work quickly.

Matt

Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, I think we've got to make sure that the systems that we have, and I, you know, I'd recommend a blend of what we talk about here, it wouldn't just be one thing fits all, you know, you want to have to at least two independent methods, I would suggest. So you've got a backup. But actually, it's got to be robust, it's got to be serviced correctly. So a PLB, for example, that Cheryl's talked about, you know, they do need the battery, checking and changing every couple of years. But a great thing for a PLB is not necessarily the maritime domain, but if you're somebody that likes to get out and about go skiing, or you know, go walking in the mountains, PLBs can be used in all parts of your life, and all over the world. So, you know, if you're lucky enough to be able to go off to France on a skiing holiday, you can take it with you. And if you get into trouble, you can set that PLB off. So it's not just about you know, enjoying when you're out of the water, that investment can help, you know, in a number of instances, and we personally appear to be something that I've got, and I use both when I'm you know, out in the water. But also if I'm walking in mountains, I'll make sure I've got my PLB with me,

Heather

Tim, I'm listening to Matt talking there about the various bits of technology and how to use them, I suppose my question to you is that tech is only as good as the person using them. In other words, how much do people really need to have got to grips with the technology maybe have developed a bit of muscle memory so that if something does go wrong, they're not wondering, oh, I wonder how this bit works? Or that bit works. They know instantly What to do?

Tim
Yes, of course, people need to know how to use the kit. They've got actually, all of these bits of kit are very simple to use. They're really easy to pick up. But yeah, of course we'd encourage people to really understand how to use the kit, and you know what button they need to press in an emergency so that they're not not scrabbling around in that moment.

Heather

Cheryl, you talked earlier about how you're very keen paddle boarder. What would you say to someone who's listening and perhaps thinks, oh, I don't know whether I can do all this and get to grips with all this.

Cheryl

If you want to have a good time on the water, you want to feel confident in the fact that if anything happens, you can alert the coastguard for help. Whenever I go paddleboarding, I always have my buoyancy aid with me I always have my phone with me in a waterproof case. I take a VHF radio with me with digital selective calling on it. So if you know my phone runs out, runs out of battery, which it never does, because it's always charged before I go out, that I always have a second means of calling for help. I also try to not paddleboard by myself, that I always have a buddy who also has a mobile phone in a waterproof case. And I make sure that I check the tides before I go out. So I know which way the tide is going. So I can be safe that, you know, I won't go against the tide when I'm feeling tired at the end of my session. And I also check the wind as well. So it's all those little things you do before going out on the water that makes sure that you have a great time. And that and you know that if you do get into difficulties, that you don't have to feel alone, and that you have got the facilities to be able to get back to shore safely after your little water adventure.

Heather

Matt, one final question for you, all the things that you've talked about the technology, how to use it, all those kinds of things. So I'm getting a real sense here, of whatever you're doing, whenever you go onto the water, really make sure you are prepared.

Matt

Yeah, absolutely. I think, you know, preparation is key. And it's, it's, it's all in the preparation. So to enjoy the water safely. You know, it doesn't take long at all, you know, downloading SafeTrx setting yourself up on there, you know, it takes minutes, minutes, you know, it's it's not long at all, you know, having your mobile phone charged, knowing what to do and also if you're going out with other people, you know, if you go out with somebody, for example, and you paddleboard and one person's got appeal be on one person hasn't will know how to use the other person's bit of safety equipment because if something happens to them, and they're, you know, knocked unconscious or something bad happens, it's really good to know how to use their safety kit as well. There's no point in having it out there if you don't know how to use it in anger. But I think you know, sort of this Maritime Safety Week is a really good time for us to be able to highlightsome easy ways and quite cheap ways of keeping yourself safe and enjoying the amazing coastline that we've got, you know, around the UK.

Heather

My thanks to Matt Leat, Tim Kendall and Cheryl Clifford, for joining me for this podcast. You've been listening to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency podcast until the next time, goodbye.