Like so many, lifesaving clubs across the UK and Ireland have adapted to the unprecedented times that COVID-19 has presented. One example of a club that didn’t let the circumstances hold them back was the South Shields Volunteer Lifeguard Club. They utilised technology and embraced new ways of working to ensure that their community remained active during this period. We talked to them, to find out about some of the activities they have been participating in over the past few months:

At the beginning of lockdown, we participated in the toilet roll challenge that was across social media at the time. Our ambassadors Leigh and Maxi also got involved across the world in Australia. We were eager to get other lifesaving clubs involved too, so we invited Billingham Lifesaving Club & North Sea Volunteer Lifeguards to join in what we called ‘The Revenge of the Toilet Roll.’  We thought this was a great way to maintain the bond between the three clubs, as they were due to be joining us this Summer for our Survive & Save Summer Camp. Sadly, this had to be cancelled for this year. 

Early into lockdown, we realised that we needed to take advantage of what technology could do for us. So we held our first committee meeting via Zoom to discover how it worked and joined in a couple of meetings with the virtual lifesaving club on Facebook to get ideas.

In April, we decided to continue with the Young Leader's Course we had planned to keep our younger members entertained. Having worked out how it worked, Zoom seemed the obvious solution to run it on, so we individually ordered packs to be delivered to members taking part. There were always at least two leaders on each session for safeguarding reasons. We also developed an online policy for clarity which everyone had to adhere to. The participants seemed to enjoy the session which were still interactive, and they had to plan an activity to deliver to the group themselves. We had some great examples on how to fold paper aeroplanes, make hats and even how to make the perfect sandwich.  As a group, they then had sessions online to plan a virtual Rookie festival. Leaders on the call turned off their cameras, but they could still see and hear what was going on. The youth members came up with events, rules and score sheets. They also created some instruction videos of how to undertake certain activities. We hosted our festival with our Rookies members on 5 July - all events were completed at home and results sent in on a score sheet. The youth members also designed and ran a quiz using a quiz app. It would have been nice if a few more people had logged on to take part as we only had 10 participants but those that attended enjoyed it.

Pamela also ran a FAW course for six leaders, all the theory was completed via Zoom and we even had an IV session. For the practical elements, on a nice sunny day and, when we were permitted to visit gardens, we met, following distance guidelines and went through the practical skills. Each person had an individual manikin which had the lungs changed after use and the face sterilised. Everyone wore a face mask and gloves, and they each had a family member for sections where a partner was required.  For the assessment, I used a friend's empty office, and one person was permitted in at a time, with their equipment and they brought a family member with them and wore all the appropriate PPE and provided their own pens. We were also appropriately distanced.

It has been important for us to continue our communications with our Rookies. So, we got them involved online with Rookie water safety, Drowning Prevention Week and Save A Life workshops (with club sessions using pillows and teddy bears as makeshift manikins. We ran two club sessions a week for seniors and Rookies).

One of our members, Richard wrote our Big Quiz in May, we invited NSVL and Billingham to take part and it was a fun night.

Recently, we restarted our lifesaving activities with beach sessions, as our pool will not be in use for some time due to a fire in April.  All the measures we put in place worked well. Everyone on the leader team has specific jobs and bubbles were developed for the children which we will maintain each week.

Over the next few weeks, we have more activities planned including; an OWL course and a lifesaving instructor course both via Zoom and we have recorded a video for Save a Life that is to be sent to the Girl Guides for their Toon Festival. We’ve posted the video on our brand-new club YouTube channel, another way to make use of great technology to keep members and the public involved with the club

All in all, we are making the best out of a bad situation but are trying our best to keep things together as we celebrate 60 years of the club in 2021. Planning for our Anniversary Dinner is already underway. We are hoping for a warm winter as we are based on the beach until possibly next May!