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Guide to Beach safety and inland water rescue equipment

Introduction This guide is based on the RNLI beach safety information for the UK but similar rules are applied in northern Europe too elsewhere too. In any case before beach/waterside safety equipment is installed, a qualified health and safety expert will be required to do an audit and make recommendations to the number of rescue stations required for each location. The number and type required will depend on the degree of risk and the number of people visiting that location. Please check regulations for water safety in your region before choosing the type of rescue equipment as well as contacting an authorised health and safety consultant.

The main options are: 1) Lifebuoys in 22-30” (560-762mm) sizes with attached floating lines 2) Throwing lines (a bag designed to be thrown to a casualty in the water) 3) Torpedo buoys. Torpedo buoys For beaches manned by lifeguards the torpedo buoy is often used. This flotation aid with handles is used by the lifeguard where they will go into the water to physically grab the casualty and swim back to shore with them. The torpedo buoy gives the rescuer useful extra buoyancy to make this considerably easier. It is not designed for use by the general public.

Torpedo buoy in a housing. They are not normally stored this way.

Lifebuoys (Ringbuoys) Lifebuoys are the most popular type of waterside safety equipment and are designed to be thrown to someone in the water. Attached to the lifebuoy will be a length of very strong floating line of at least 20m (66ft) in length. The round shape of the lifebuoy and with attached ropes, can be grabbed by the person in the water and the rescuer can use the rope to pull them to safety as they still have the other end of the floating rope. The 22” size of lifebuoy provides enough flotation for one adult. The larger 30” can provide enough buoyancy for two adults. The reason for selecting the smaller 22” size is these lifebuoys are lighter and the smaller diameter also makes it easier to throw the buoy a greater distance. The rescuer should not have to enter the water before throwing the lifebuoy so if the water is any distance from the shore then the smaller lifebuoy size should be used. The 30” lifebuoys are used mainly on quaysides where there is a vertical or close to vertical drop to the water. In such locations the limited distance it can be thrown is not such a problem. Rescue lines For many people even throwing a 22” lifebuoy can be a challenge and there is a risk the distance to the casualty will be too great and the lifebuoy falls short. In this situation a rescue line is the best answer. The floating line is stored in a weighted bag. The rescuer holds one end of the line and throws the bag to the casualty. The light weight and smaller size make it considerably easier to throw and with a great deal more accuracy. The weighted bag will float and provide a limited amount of buoyancy for the person in the water. Once the casualty has hold of the bag the rescuer can then pull them to safety using the floating line.

A variety of rescue line types with different lengths and breaking strains

Storage Once the types and number of rescue items have been identified a way needs to be found of safely storing them. Not only to protect the equipment from the elements but also to ensure would be rescuers can find the equipment easily. Sometimes lifebuoys are attached to posts and the line wound around the lifebuoy. The problems with this is the Lifebuoys will degrade due to UV radiation as will the line. The lines also tend to get tangled up and so prevent the lifebuoy being thrown the required distance. This is a genuine example of a 22” lifebuoy with attached rope at a lakeside

So what are the solutions to these issues?

It is best to have the lines stored in containers which also incorporate a handle. This way the container keeps the line free of knots, provides some UV protection and is easier for the rescuer to keep hold of. Shown on the left is a 100ft (30m) line and for the 30” lifebuoy and a 66ft (20m) line for the 22”. Both held in a specially shaped container with instructions for use (LTL762 and LTL560)

The lifebuoy and line can be stored in a lifebuoy housing. This will provide effective protection for the lifebuoy and line as well as making the rescue equipment easier to find. Open fronted lifebuoy housing containing a 30” lifebuoy and 100ft rescue line. The housings can be fixed to walls, railings or posts as shown.

SOS4 with 30” lifebuoy, 100ft LTL762 Line and SOS4/7 Galvanised post

These housings are manufactured from robust UV stabilized polyethylene and the lifebuoy can simply be lifted off the internal hooks so can be deployed very rapidly. For areas where there are high levels of UV radiation or are prone to theft, a clip in front cover can be fitted over the opening. It is very easy to unclip and remains attached to the housing via a bungy cord. The cover is also a useful location for safety signage or instructions.

Clip in front cover on 30” housing showing hand holds to remove the cover and retaining bungy cord.

Model shown is SOS4 plus SOS4C

The mounting posts can either be made from hot galvanised steel or fibreglass. The latter are better at long term corrosion resistance and look neater. They are also easier to transport due to their light weight. Either type of post can have a baseplate/foot fitted for bolting down to a quayside or jetty. Alternatively, longer posts without base plates and be sunk into fresh ground and secured with fast curing concrete. Other types of lifebuoy housings have two integral doors. These provide the best protection from the elements and can be opened very quickly using the single handle (no awkward heavy door to hold up while you try to extract the lifebuoy and line). Furthermore, they can be fitted with an anti-tamper seal to deter the curious and indicate whether the housing has been opened or not. 22” Lifebuoy housing mounted on 2 GRP posts which enable to sign to be fitted between. The door release handle can be seen just to the right of the centre label. These labels are moulded into the plastic and so will not peel off.

SOS700 with 2 x SOS400FL fibreglass posts and fibreglass sign clamps

Next: Marina safety stations

In marinas there is a requirement to have fire fighting equipment in addition to lifesaving equipment. Space is very limited on pontoons and it is desirable to have the equipment at fairly low level to reduce the wind resistance. The safety station holds a fire extinguisher, lifebuoy and a throwing line. If a 6 litre fire extinguisher is used then it is possible to also fit a small first aid kit into the top of the cabinet. The high quality, clear polycarbonate door makes it possible to check the state of the pressure gauge. Different sizes of lifebuoy and line can be fitted to the back of the housing using the supplied fittings.

SOS601 with 9 litre foam extinguisher and 22” lifebuoy including LTL560 throwing line.

For rescue lines there is a new type of cabinet which is also manufactured from UV stabilized polyethylene. It can be wall, rail or post mounted like the lifebuoy housings but is much smaller in size. The cabinet is fitted with a hinged, drop down door which releases the throwing line through gravity. Instructions for use are shown on the front. Throwing line container mounted to fibreglass post.

SOS603 Rescue line container with SOS400FL Fibreglass post

Next: The Jo Bird product range summary

Jo Bird cabinet models (not including accessories other than covers) Lifebuoy housings Model



22” Open fronted lifebuoy housing


Optional cover for the above


30” Open fronted Lifebuoy housing


Optional cover for the above


22” Fully enclosed Lifebuoy housing


30” Fully enclosed lifebuoy housing


22-30” Lifebuoy/fire extinguisher safety station


Rescue line cabinet


Safety station based on the SOS603

For further details please contact Jo Bird and company Tel +44 1278 78 5546 Email: For the official UK guidance on Water rescue equipment please see: A Guide to Coastal Public Rescue Equipment-RNLI which is available to download: RNLI public rescue equipment

tp-int-10-03cp_throwline_2018_metriclr.pdf NA 28.04.2021

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Guide to beach safety and inland water rescue equipment  

A brief guide to the types of water rescue equipment available and recommendations as to the types to use for different locations. This info...

Guide to beach safety and inland water rescue equipment  

A brief guide to the types of water rescue equipment available and recommendations as to the types to use for different locations. This info...


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