Coast Guard pioneers smartphone app in bid to save lives

The Coast Guard is developing an iPhone app to help save lives at sea.

Work on the app has been ongoing for four months and a cross-section of people, including sailors, divers, fishermen, and powerboat and pleasure craft users across the country, are testing it.

Believed to be the first of its kind in the world, the app is being trialled in a variety of situations and different weather conditions Initially for iPhone users, it can be extended to other smartphones, depending on the uptake. It is hoped to have it in use before the end of this year or early 2013.

Coast Guard director Chris Reynolds said: “Its purpose is to further encourage anyone going out to sea, whether it is professionally or for leisure or sport, to let the Coast Guard know in advance.

“Getting to casualties early is the key for our search and rescue units. This new app has the potential to get our resources on-scene as quickly as possible, which will in turn save lives.”

It was easy to use and required people to input some details before heading out on the water, he added.

Mr Reynolds explained: “It will track your movement and trigger an alert if you have not returned as expected.

“Our experience shows that, even wearing a life jacket, your life may be at risk if you are in the water for prolonged periods, in dangerous currents or poor weather conditions.”

He stressed it was not being developed as an alternative to VHF radio or emergency beacons.

Mr Reynolds, speaking at the handing over of the chair of the European Coast Guard Forum to Greece, said coast guards from Malta, Britain, Sweden, and Portugal had expressed an interest in developing similar systems.

The Coast Guard has had a busy summer dealing with emergency call-outs and Mr Reynolds issued the following water safety message:

* Before going to sea, check local weather conditions and tides in the area;

* Wear correctly maintained and fitting lifejackets that are suitable for the activity. Lifejackets are of no use unless they are worn;

* Ensure your craft is fit for purpose;

* Always advise someone as to where you are going and the time of your intended return.

* Don’t overload the craft.

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