Crew Information

Currently the operational team consists of 36 individuals who are all volunteers. Each operational member has to be able to respond to a shout (callout) within minutes and it is therefore essential that they all live in Porthcawl. They are normally ‘paged’ by UK Coastguard who request a launch or in more urgent incidents will send an ‘immediate launch’ message via the paging system. The station has averaged around 70 launches per year in recent years. There is no pattern to our launches, there could be one a month or three in a day.

Personnel generally fall into one of three roles within the lifeboat station – Launch Management, Crew and Shore Helpers.

Launch Management

Heading the whole operational side of the station is the Lifeboat Operations Manager, LOM. This position is currently held by Philip Missen MBE. He is responsible for the management of all operational volunteers including the safety and training standards, maintenance of the station and all the equipment including the lifeboat and launching tractor. He is also the person that communicates with RNLI Divisional Inspectors and RNLI Headquarters in Poole.  The role most people associate the LOM with is that of the head ‘launch authority’ following a request from coastguards for the lifeboat to launch to an incident.

Assisting the LOM, especially in his absence, and following a request to launch by coastguards, there are 4 Deputy Launch Authority (DLA) personnel at Porthcawl. As with the case of the LOM it is their responsibility to authorise a launch based on the information passed via the coastguards and in particular taking into account local wind force, sea conditions and the safety of lifeboat and crew.

The RNLI policy for inshore lifeboats is that crew retire at age 55 and in Porthcawl the LOM and each of the DLAs are all retired crew members and therefore have experience of the sea and tidal conditions in the area.

There are also additional ‘management roles’ within the operational side and these are, Station Treasurer (ST), Lifeboat Press Officer (LPO), Sea Safety Officer (SSO), and Lifeboat Training Coordinator (LTC). In Porthcawl the LPO is also a DLA; the SSO is also a member of the Shore Helpers group and the LTC is a crew member too.

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The Crew

The crew numbers stand around 25, both male and more recently female volunteers, ranging in age from 17 to 55. This group is made up of helmsman, crew and probationary crew. The Atlantic 85 lifeboat launches with 3-4 crew members on board whilst the IB1 (D-class) lifeboat launches with 2-3 crew members on board. We require far more than this on the crew as we have to be able to launch anytime 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. For this reason we rely on crew from a mix of occupations, particularly if they are shift workers or work locally within two miles of the station. When the lifeboats are launched the crew will consist of one helmsman, and between one to three crew members depending on which lifeboat is being launched. Normally the rescue crew on a ‘shout’ will consist of the first crew members in the order they arrive at the station, as long as they fulfill the minimum experience criteria above. If, as may be the case, during a callout, the first crew members through the door are all be qualified helmsmen, normally the first to arrive will then take responsibility to be the helm and the other three will carry out other crew duties on board which will be radio operator, lookout etc.

Once at sea the helmsman is responsible for the lifeboat, crew and casualty safety, he or she will liaise with coastguards, search and rescue helicopters, other lifeboats or craft via the lifeboat radio operator. There is no communication between the lifeboat and the station management except in rare cases via coastguards.

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Shore Crew

Currently there are six volunteers in this role whose aim is to ensure the speedy and safe launch of the lifeboat whether that is for a ‘shout’ or normal exercise launches. In this category the volunteers are made up from retired crew or from people who want to be involved with lifeboats but have no interest in going to sea. One of the jobs that qualified shore crew carry out is that of Tractor Driver, essential for the launch of the lifeboat at whatever state of tide.

 

At most inshore lifeboat stations and Porthcawl is no exception, the crew are flexible in their duties and many will help with launching and or recovering the lifeboat, cleaning, refuelling and preparing it ‘ready for service’. They will also be trained and prepared to assist in landing casualties and administering first aid and life saving skills until professional help arrives.

The volunteer personnel at Porthcawl are ordinary residents of our town; they include single people, married and family people who are students, employed, self employed and retired. They are dedicated to the RNLI and Porthcawl’s lifeboat station. This involves training and taking part in exercise launches, both on a Wednesday evening and Sunday morning, as well as attending courses at the RNLI Training College in Poole. Some also give safety talks to schools and community organisations. In addition to all training and ‘off station work’ each of the Operational team is on standby 24 hours a day.

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