Coastguard issues warning to clifftop visitors following recent rescues

Coastal visitors in Shetland are being urged to take extra care near cliffs after a recent spate of rescues. 

The coastguard issued the warning after its officers were involved in two call-outs in the last fortnight, involving people getting into trouble on the coast. 

Due to the nature of the terrain, the coastguard said rescue operations were “extremely challenging”.

Dave Sweeney, coastal operations area commander for HM Coastguard said: “We are aware that members of the public are climbing down very dangerous cliffs in Shetland and in particular the North Mainland areas of Zoar, Uyea, Fethaland and Lang Ayre”.  

 “It’s understandable that people want to explore the secret gems around our beautiful coastline, but it’s not worth risking your life for.

“We want people to make sure their experience on the coastline is one to remember and not one they’d rather forget.

“Don’t risk your safety by climbing down cliffs.

“Weather conditions can change in an instant, making the cliff face treacherous to try and get back up.  

“Over recent months, there has been a massive increase of people exploring the coastline, visiting hard to reach places and whale watching.”

The coastguard has issued tips to stay safe on the coast:

– Do not attempt to climb up or down cliffs unless you are properly equipped and trained to do so and do not attempt to climb cliffs as a short cut back to the top and again.

– Make sure you are properly equipped for walking along coastal paths. In particular remember to wear sturdy shoes or boots and check the weather forecast and tidal times before you set out. Carry a fully charged mobile phone and tell someone where you are going and what time you will be home. Only use the designated paths, take notice of any warning signs and fences in place, be responsible and don’t take any unnecessary risks.

– Try to keep your dog on a lead near cliffs.  If they pick up the scent of an animal or hear something on the coast below it doesn’t take much for them to follow their nose.  Above all, if your dog does fall down a cliff or starts getting swept out to sea, please do not attempt to rescue it yourself.  Nine times out of ten your dog will rescue itself and return to shore alive, but tragically some owners do not.  Coastguards are trained in all types of rescue on the coast, including dog rescues. 

 – When standing at the bottom of a cliff, we would always advise people that they shouldn’t stand less than the height of the cliff away.  That means that if the cliff is 25 metres high, don’t go closer than 25 metres towards it.

 Anyone who gets into trouble or sees anyone in distress at sea should call 999 and ask for coastguard. 


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