Lifesavers have today launched a beach safety campaign urging parents to protect their families and save lives at the coast.

Coastguards dealt with 200 incidents around the country last weekend – including 14 in Dorset which saw lifeboats and search teams alerted to rescue people in danger.

Following the easing of lockdown restrictions and with children still off school, many more people are expected to visit the coast.

The RNLI still hopes to provide a lifeguard service on around 30 per cent of the beaches the charity usually covers in time for the traditional peak summer season. But at present, there are no RNLI lifeguards on UK beaches.

Rescuers need the public to be aware of dangers, take responsibility for themselves and their loved ones and remember that, in an emergency, call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.

Parents should be ‘beach smart’ if they visit the coast to ensure they and their families have the safest summer possible, whether lifeguards are patrolling their beach or not. With patrols reduced, the public are urged not to use inflatables at all.

Director of HM Coastguard Claire Hughes said: "More than ever, people need to respect the sea and the coast.

"Whether you’re local or not, whatever your ability or experience in your chosen sport or leisure activity, the sea can still catch you out and be unmerciful when it does.

"The majority of beaches will not be lifeguarded. If you get into trouble call 999 and ask for the Coastguard and we will come to your aid.

"But coronavirus hasn’t gone away and we all need to follow the rules. Remember your choices might put people, including yourself and frontline responders, at risk. Take extra care in these extraordinary times."

Everyone, especially parents, planning a visit to a beach or the coast should follow this safety advice:

• Have a plan - check the weather forecast, tide times and read local hazard signage

• Keep a close eye on your family – on the beach and in the water

• Don’t allow your family to swim alone

• Don’t use inflatables

• If you fall into the water unexpectedly, FLOAT TO LIVE. Fight your instinct to thrash around, lean back, extend your arms and legs, and float

• In an emergency dial 999, and ask for the Coastguard