CAMPAIGNS: Coastguard bid to stem SAR tide - Public Awareness

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 safety awareness.

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

safety awareness.



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.



Objectives



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.



Tactics



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

pack.



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.



Results



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

to come.



Verdict



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,

Cornwall.



’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



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