Last weekend we went to see what one of our employees gets up to when he’s not at work.
Sean Ferguson, Warehouse Operative at Johnston Logistics UK always has one ear listening for either his pager or mobile to ring. Sean, known to workmates as Skippy, has more reason than most for being this attentive to being contacted. Sean lives on the east coast and is an experienced member of the Happisburgh RNLI lifeboat crew. Many of the crew members live within 3 miles of the station, however, people like Sean are also always on call in case of a major incident.
When Sean moved from Norwich to the coast a friend suggested he’d make a great lifeboat crew member and he decided to give it a go. Five and a half years later he’s now an experienced member of the team, a qualified first aider as well as being the mechanic for the station. Sean’s natural communication skills have also led him to becoming a Coastal Safety Associate and he’s appeared at many events across the region educating the public on how to remain safe around any large bodies of water whether it be the sea, rivers or lakes by promoting preventative action and good behaviour around water.
Sean said that “the RNLI get people expressing an interest in becoming lifeboat crew but once they come along and realise the extent of the training required only a few will go on to become permanent trained crew members.” The crew have regular training sessions twice a week. Sean described “We are expected to put to sea in all weather conditions even where container ships have to put to anchor, so it’s important that all our procedures are rehearsed until everyone in the team knows exactly what they have to do in any given situation.”
Fortunately, the station has only had to deal with 2 fatalities in recent years. However, people do put themselves needlessly in danger – particularly when pets are involved. Sean described how people often put their lives at risk trying to rescue the family dog. “Dogs can often get themselves out of dangerous situations but owners panic and can often end up having to be rescued themselves. I remember one shout where we were called to a dog on the cliffs just below Happisburgh lighthouse. We got to the scene, I had to swim 50-60 yards through the sea defences to reach the cliff and the dog just ran along the cliff towards us and to safety. However, in the meantime the owner had scrambled down the cliff to try and rescue the dog and became in need of rescue themselves. Because of the nature of the crumbling rocks the cliffs are made of, they required a full scale rescue involving being winched to safety – an operation that took a couple of hours for us to complete.”
Sean says his first thought on every shout is ‘please be alive’. “We all just want to get to the incident and be able to rescue people not just recover a body. We will be given a reference point to go to but that doesn’t mean the person will be there. We often then have to search large areas of sea to locate the people in difficulty. Speed is of the essence; the longer people are in the water the more likely we will be on a recovery mission rather than a rescue.”
When you put your life at risk to save others, it puts life into perspective. I think it has given me the confidence to know I can deal with most situations.
Sean has even had one of the rescues he was involved in videoed. “We were out on our usual Sunday morning training session and I was wearing the helmet camera recording the session for us to discuss back at the station. We received a call from the coastguard, asking us to keep an eye out for a missing dog in our area. So we started a sweep of the shoreline. After about 20 minutes searching we thought we heard the faint sound of a dog barking. We had to turn the engine off and managed to locate where the sound was coming from.” The dog had been swimming when it was swept out to sea and it ended up on one of the many man-made coastal erosion reefs that are dotted about this part of the UK’s coastline. The crew, including Sean, had to clamber over the rocks to coax the dog to safety. The dog’s owners, fearing the worst, had gone home to break the bad news, fortunately they had left their number with the coastguard and were obviously overjoyed to get the news that she’d been rescued and was safe and well. If you’d like to view the rescue, click here. [link to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSgoNe7Usqc ]
Sean has been with Johnston Logistics UK for 9 months. “I travel 50 miles to work each day, and I’m happy to do it because I love my job. Johnston Logistics UK is a great company to work for. Everyone here has been very supportive and they were happy to take me on knowing of the commitment that I give to the RNLI.”
Rob McIndoe, Finance Director, at Johnston Logistics said ”Sean is a valued member of the team and we are more than happy to support him in any way we can. After all he’s prepared to put his life on the line every time he puts to sea.”