Normally-Busy Lifeboat Station Sees First Callout in Seven Weeks

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The Royal National Lifeboat Institution says that its station at Oban, Scotland went nearly seven weeks without a single callout – a sign of the public’s willingness to follow stay-at-home guidance for COVID-19 prevention. 

“As one of the busiest lifeboats in Scotland, we would normally have launched between 10 and 15 times so far in the calendar year but, at present, we have launched five times in 2020,” said Billy Forteith, the operations manager for the Oban station. “This is Oban RNLI’s first call out since restrictions were introduced nearly seven weeks ago and that is testimony to those who have adhered to the guidelines put in place by the government.”

In April, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) asked the British public to temporarily avoid any recreational seagoing activity in order to reduce the risk for first responders. The government guidance at the time called for citizens to stay home, save lives and protect the workers of the National Health Service (by reducing hospital caseload). 

That guidance is changing. On Sunday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that his cabinet will encourage people to take more and even unlimited amounts of outdoor exercise, beginning this Wednesday. That includes driving to other destinations and playing sports (so long as social distancing is maintained). 

In a statement, the RNLI said that it is seeking “further clarity” regarding Johnson’s announcement and will be engaging with other governing bodies and stakeholders to inform its response. In the meantime, it is asking members of the public to take the necessary steps to keep themselves safe and minimize emergency callouts. Each event could potentially expose a lifeboat crew to coronavirus. In addition, every callout for a distressed recreational boater draws down on the organization’s finite resources, which are needed for essential services like rescuing merchant mariners and fishermen. 

The RNLI is a charity and depends upon public donations for 95 percent of its funding; with the UK in lockdown, it cannot carry out its normal fundraising events, and its public collection boxes see fewer passersby.