Training is vital – it turns volunteers into lifesavers. Every year the RNLI delivers consistent, high-quality training to thousands of crew members at the Lifeboat College in Poole and at over 230 of its lifeboat stations.
Every crew member undergoes a structured training programme, and trainee crew members need to attain a level of competence before being fully enrolled as active crew. If you're interested in joining the crew, please visit our recruitment page.
Lifeboat Crew - Development Plans
Trainees and crew alike are required to follow a particular development plan that covers a pre-agreed range of skills necessary to complete particular tasks. These skills and tasks form part of the competence-based training (or CoBT as it is known in the RNLI).
Lifeboat crew are trained so they can 'competently' perform the tasks and when they have been assessed as 'competent' they are defined as 'efficient and pertinently proficient individuals'!
The RNLI and Sunderland Lifeboat Station provide first-class training and equipment, guidance and support. Training is an on-going process for the duration of a lifeboat crew member's service. It is not the kind of job where you ever know it all!
On Station Training
After the first few months, most training is done at sea, with weekly exercises afloat, and there are also shore-based training sessions. This training includes boathandling, radio communications, first aid, navigation, radar training and getting to know and work with the crew.
On-station training involves weekly exercises and is all about teamwork, competence and safe procedures. Each time a lifeboat launches on exercise crew members carry out various tasks to familiarise themselves with the range of equipment held onboard the lifeboat.
Various rescue scenarios are practised, some involving other emergency services such as HM Coastguard, Fire, Police and Ambulance services (see The Rescue Process for further information).
Each year, and at every station, a number of these exercises take place when the lifeboat crew are required to demonstrate their skills under the watchful and critical eye of an RNLI Divisional Inspector (DI) or Divisional Assessor/Trainer (DAT).
RNLI Mobile Training Units (MTU's)
It is vital that training is provided for our volunteer crews with the least possible disruption to their jobs and family commitments. For this reason, training is also provided around the coast by nine mobile training units (MTUs). These specialised vehicles offer both classroom facilities and lifeboat-specific equipment to support training.
Training can be delivered during the day and in the evening to suit the crew's requirements. Subjects covered by the mobile training instructors include first aid, electronic navigation and marine radio equipment
RNLI Lifeboat College, Poole
All crew members also have the opportunity to attend courses held at the Lifeboat College in Poole. Facilities include the Survival Centre, which offers outstanding training facilities that realistically simulate the most challenging of environments where crew can be trained in a safe and supervised way.
A range of competence-based courses are provided for both all-weather lifeboat (ALB) and inshore lifeboat (ILB) crew. For ALB crew, some courses are specifically aimed at navigators, others are for coxswains and the more generic courses support all crew members.
B class Atlantic courses cover boathandling, search and rescue techniques and an introduction to capsize drills. Command skills are continually assessed throughout the helmsman's courses, which include advanced manoeuvring and handling in rough weather, navigation, helicopter operations and a capsize assessment in rough weather.
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