An Eventful 2020 For The Chiswick RNLI Lifeboat

Crew to feature in BBC programme in the New Year

The ungrateful cat following its rescue. Picture: Chiswick RNLI

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2020 started normally for Chiswick RNLI with an average number of incidents. The education team carried on with visits, fundraisers gave talks and the annual comedy night was held at the George IV in February….. then came the Covid-19 lockdown in March.

This required some frantic activity from the local lifeboat crew to adapt operating procedures to continue the 24/7 search and rescue service on the Thames while maintaining safety.

The full time and volunteer crew members were split into eight teams on 24 hour shifts. Already rigorous PPE provided by the RNLI was further enhanced. There was no mixing of crew teams and no contact at handover so that if any crew member tested positive then only one team would be stood down to quarantine. Regular 12 hour shifts resumed in July while enhanced protocols were maintained.

After the new safety regime became routine, Hammersmith Bridge was suddenly closed to all passage above and below the bridge. Discussions between many agencies resulted in Chiswick RNLI lifeboat being allowed to pass under the bridge but only for a life-saving emergency.

Rescue numbers are down from 2019 reflecting reduced leisure activity during the lockdowns. There were more people cut off by the tide as people unfamiliar with the Thames sought less busy locations for getting out and about.

There were several serious injury incidents which required all aspects of the crews’ casualty care skills, but the many animal rescues were less challenging. The video of a cat rescue was viewed by thousands on social media; an extended version, with crew interviews will be on the BBC programme Saving Lives at Sea at 8pm on 7 January 2021.


All fundraising and education activity ceased in March and the team diverted its efforts into social media channels and increased followers across all platforms. They now have a dedicated JustGiving page and, as a result, on-line fund-raising now equals average totals for the local team.

Chiswick RNLI lifeboat station is the second busiest in the UK and Ireland. Since The RNLI search and rescue service on the Thames started in 2002, Chiswick Lifeboat has attended over 3,500 incidents and rescued over 1,750 people. The RNLI is entirely funded by public donations.

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December 30, 2020

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