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LGA - Rise in cliff-fall hospital admissions and emergency responses sparks warning from councils and fire authorities

A worrying rise in cliff-related emergency responses and hospital admissions has sparked a beach safety warning from councils and fire authorities.

Firefighters are responding to people getting stuck climbing 200ft high cliffs, stranded dogs - whose owners have themselves become trapped trying to rescue them – walkers falling down cliffs after straying into closed-off areas and huge rockfalls onto beaches near bathers.

A 13-year-old boy was airlifted to hospital last month with life-threatening injuries including a fractured skull, a collapsed lung, broken ribs and a broken leg after falling down a cliff while playing on rocks in North Tyneside.

New figures show the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) undertook 166 launches to people on cliffs in 2015, compared with 118 in 2014 – a rise of 41 per cent – while firefighters are rescuing people stranded on cliffs and beaches due to rising tide on an average of once a month.

Further figures from the The Health and Social Care Information Centre show 121 people were admitted to hospital with injuries sustained due to falling from cliffs in 2014/15, compared with 112 in 2013/14 – an 8 per cent increase.

To help reduce avoidable 999 responses, the Local Government Association (LGA), which represents more than 370 councils and all 48 fire and rescue authorities, is calling on government to launch a national campaign to highlight the risks of climbing, walking along or bathing near cliffs and is urging people to assess the risks and use their judgement.

Cllr Simon Blackburn, Chair of the LGA's Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said:

"At this time of year a walk along the cliffs can be lovely, but while the views may be picturesque, they come with their own perils.

"It is irresponsible and negligent for any inexperienced climber to scale cliffs because not only are they jeopardising their own safety, they are also endangering the lives of firefighters and fellow rescue workers who are expected to come to their aid when they get stuck or fall.

"Young people may see cliffs as an opportunity to explore and climb, but doing so isn't worth the risk.

"Cliff rescues are difficult, dangerous and time-consuming operations which often involve co-ordination with the Coastguard and other emergency services. They put a demand on resources and can lead to fire and rescue services elsewhere being called to provide back-up or cover.

"Some of these can easily be avoided if people take sensible precautions when either walking across clifftops or visiting beaches.

"Walkers and bathers should steer clear of cliff edges – both the tops of them and below at beach level - as landslips and rockfalls can happen at any time, and they should never venture into closed-off areas.

"Dogs should also be kept on a lead near cliffs where possible to help avoid them – and their owners – becoming stranded or getting into trouble.

"Fire and rescue teams are attending cliff and beach rescues every month and people can help reduce this rate of response by applying common sense to the potential dangers of their surroundings. However, firefighters will always respond to emergencies and anyone needing urgent rescue should not hesitate to call 999."

Case studies

Notes to editor

  • There were 118 RNLI launches to people on cliffs in 2014 and 166 launches in 2015.

http://rnli.org/aboutus/aboutthernli/Documents/ops-stats-report.pdf

http://rnli.org/aboutus/aboutthernli/rnli-annual-report-and-accounts-2015/Pages/RNLI-Annual-Report-and-Accounts-2015.aspx

  • 112 people were admitted to hospital with injuries sustained due to falling from cliffs in 2013/14, and 121 such admissions in 2014/15, according to The Health and Social Care Information Centre, Hospital Episode Statistics for England - Admitted Patient Care statistics.

http://digital.nhs.uk/catalogue/PUB16719 (fourth spreadsheet - ‘external causes')

http://digital.nhs.uk/catalogue/PUB19124 (fourth spreadsheet - ‘external causes') 

  • In the three-year period from 2013-16 firefighters in England rescued 38 people stranded on a beach or cliff with rising or full tide. Firefighters in England rescued 338 people from water, including the sea, in 2013/14, compared with 395 people in 2015/16.

https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/fire-statistics-data-tables (See Fire0902 spreadsheet under ‘Special service incidents')

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