RNLI Tower Lifeboat Station, in numbers…

543 = The number of times Tower Lifeboat was called out in 2014
104 = The number of people rescued by Tower Lifeboat in 2014
1000 = The number of pounds it costs each time Tower Lifeboat is called out
60 = The percentage of funding the RNLI receives from legacies
10 = The number of minutes within which an RNLI coastal lifeboat is normally required to launch 
90 = The number of seconds within which Tower Lifeboat is required to launch
52 = The number of volunteers at Tower Lifeboat
12 = The number of hours a shift lasts at Tower Lifeboat

Tower Lifeboat, explained…

The numbers above give an indication of the time, money and effort that go into running the busiest lifeboat station in the UK. With the majority of the team made up of volunteers, dedication is definitely the name of the game here. We caught up with Andrew Stewart who told us more…

Why do so many rescues take place on the tidal Thames? 

This is for a number of reasons, the main one being the sheer number of people in London doing things on and around the river, another being the number of bridges in central London. They make jumping (and falling!) into the river very easy. Around the coast, there are fewer places where you can jump straight into deep or dangerous water, so fewer people who end up in the water need to be rescued. 

Sometimes, a lifeboat can get to a location near the river much quicker than an ambulance, so it will launch and go to a spot which is difficult to reach by road, even though the call-out may not be directly river-related. 

Andrew also explained that iconic backdrops such as Parliament and the London Eye make jumping into the Thames from bridges like Westminster and Tower Bridge all the more tempting. 

FACTS: one nasty, one nice

1. The riverbed mud is so sticky in some places that people falling into the water there can become lodged and not float up for days
2. There are signed photographs of Cameron Diaz, Gwyneth Paltrow and Coldplay on display at Tower Lifeboat 

Who are the people who end up in the river?

A huge range of people! It’s common to think that the RNLI in London mainly rescue people who are drunk or have attempted suicide but these only make up some of the numbers.

One story told of a group of teenagers becoming stranded near Blackfriars Bridge as their wooden powerboat came apart beneath them during a summer’s day jaunt.

Another spoke of a woman who had missed her last train home and decided to follow the tracks along the bridge from Charing Cross station, only to slip and fall in!  We actually watched some extraordinary video footage of this incident. The RNLI are in position under the bridge, having been called out after someone had spotted the woman and a few seconds later you see the dark figure plummet straight into the river!

According to Andrew, seeing people fall and jump into the river is not uncommon at Tower Lifeboat Station, which is situated next to Waterloo Bridge. Waterloo Bridge’s reputation of being one of “the” bridges to jump from harks back to Victorian times when the bridge acted as a kind of gateway to and from the glitz and glam of Theatreland to the then poverty-stricken areas of Lambeth and Southwark. 

Can I volunteer with the RNLI?

Tower Lifeboat Station is not currently seeking any more volunteer crew because they have such a high level of interest from people who have already approached them. However, the RNLI can use volunteer helpers in many other ways besides crewing the boats, so don’t hesitate to contact them and get your name down. Moreover, they don’t shy away from donations so please visit rnli.org if you wish to donate or offer your assistance.