Sidmouth Lifeboat maroons scrapped for pagers

MODERN technology is doing away with Sidmouth s traditional method of launching its lifeboat.

MODERN technology is doing away with Sidmouth's traditional method of launching its lifeboat.

The operations committee of Sidmouth Lifeboat is to stop firing two noisy maroons to signal the impending lifeboat launch and use a modern paging system instead.

The last time the maroons were fired was not for a call-out, but to signal two minutes' silence on Remembrance Day.

Many lifeboat stations have stopped using maroons where paging systems have proved reliable and where crews are close to the boathouse.

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Sidmouth continued using maroons as a back-up and to alert people along the seafront of the approaching launch rig and lifeboat.

They also advise casualties in the area that help is on its way and families of crew that the station is on call.

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The decision was taken recently after the RNLI, stopped using them following safety failure incidents and their production was stopped.

Sidmouth Lifeboat's senior crewman and operations manager Andy Downham explained: "We have had no reason to stop the use of maroons on safety grounds.

"We have looked at other makes of maroon but have not been satisfied with the alternatives we have seen so far.

"On the occasions we have launched without firing the maroons we have still recorded efficient launch times.

"The problem we have is we have to drive the lifeboat all along the seafront to get to the launch site."

Now they will rely on the launch rig's flashing lights to clear the way.

"We will see how it goes over the next year, then re-assess the procedure," he said.

Mr Downham thought traditionalists would miss the maroons that let them know the Pride of Sidmouth is in action.

He said losing maroons would put an end to Sidmouth Methodist Church members saying prayers for casualties and crew whenever they hear them, but thought those living near the lifeboat station "will not miss them at all."

He said the charity would soon be upgrading its paging equipment to a "more reliable localised system."

Waitrose will let Sidmouth Lifeboat site an antenna at its store, once extended, to boost the signal across Sidmouth. It will be backed by text messages to crew's mobile phones.

"It's crucial that the crew receive the page. We have had too many occasions when failed paging has potentially left the crew short-handed," said Mr Downham.

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