Coastal search and rescue (SAR) incidents have risen steadily
during the last decade, so much so that the Department of Transport has
made it clear it would like to see an improvement in sea and shore
The refinement and implementation of communications in this respect
comes under the auspices of the Coastguard, the UK’s fourth emergency
service which in 1994 became a government executive agency.
It was felt that one of the most effective means of arresting the
increase in SARs would be through an education programme aimed at
children, initially those of primary school age. The programme has
become the largest sea safety awareness campaign conducted by the
Coastguard in recent years.
The broad aims of the campaign are threefold: to show children how to
play safely when at the coast; teach them how to dial ’999 Coastguard’
in a maritime emergency; and to reduce the number of child-related
incidents per year.
The in-house team took the view that the best way to target five to 11
year olds was through schools with material that could be incorporated
into the curriculum. ’There hasn’t been a free editorial resource pack
on seaside safety put into schools before,’ says Coastguard press and
publicity manager Lynda Scott.
Early in 1996, Scott and her team set about developing a 999 Coastguard
pack, consulting education authorities up and down the country and
trying out ideas on children at five separate schools. This lead to the
creation of two cartoon characters - a coastguard called CG and his
canine companion C-dog - which came to feature prominently in the
Key elements of the pack are: a teacher’s guide, activity sheets for
children and a seven-minute video combining live action Coastguard SAR
footage with animated segments showing CG and C-dog rescuing two
children trapped by a rising tide.
The campaign was launched nationally by Transport Secretary Sir George
Young on 11 November 1996 and supported by launches to the local press
by 20 Coastguard rescue stations across the country.
Rather than ’dump-mailing’ the packs, a voucher leaflet was sent out to
schools to be completed if they wanted the material.
Scott hopes to have distributed the pack to 80 per cent of primary
schools by March and to have evaluated their educational worth by May
The intention is to continue gaining consumer media coverage through the
summer, the peak period for Coastguard SARs.
There was solid initial media coverage, particularly in the local press,
and response from schools has been encouraging. However, this is a
long-term campaign and its real benefits will not be seen for some time
The earliest indications as to the success or otherwise of Protecting
Lives Through Education will come from the educational evaluation
planned for later in the year. From this the Coastguard will decide
whether the campaign should be sustained for some time to come and
expanded to target older children.
Initial school response is encouraging. ’It looks very impressive,’ says
Geoff Brown, head teacher at St Merryan County primary school,
’It’s helpful for teachers who don’t have a background in coast and
beach safety. We’ve planned it in for our summer term.’
But the real acid test for success or failure will be if the current
upward trend in SARs is reversed.
Client: Coastguard Agency
PR Team: In-house
Campaign: Protecting Lives Through Education
Cost: pounds 75,000
Timescale: November 1996 - ongoing