The Volunteer Life Brigade today
From its historic Watch House headquarters on the South Pier of the Tyne Harbour, South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade provides a 24-hour coastal search and rescue back-up in conjunction with HM Coastguard. The Brigade operates a purpose-built Land Rover which is fully fitted with and array of special equipment and systems to respond to any emergency search and rescue call-out by HM Coastguard. Gone are the maroons and signal guns, the manila ropes and the oilskins, the coast rescue trailer and the rockets of 1866. Specialist ascent and descent climbing equipment, helmets, harnesses, stretchers, lifting frames, modern ropes, rescue winches, lighting equipment, searchlights and night vision aids, protective clothing and safety equipment, first aid supplies and modern radio and telecommunications equipment are the tools of the 21st. century. Today’s members respond to pagers and mobile telephones and talk direct by radio to HM Coastguard, lifeboats, helicopters and other emergency services. They are still motivated to help others by the same spirit and sense of public duty that inspired those who attended that first public meeting in 1865 and attended the first drill in 1866. Today’s members are trained in cliff rescue and search techniques, water rescue, first aid, and radio communications.
They are called out from home, office, and factory at all times of the night and day, whatever the weather to go the assistance of those missing or in danger on or around the coast.
Just like those who answered the call in 1866 and on every other single occasion since, today members of South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade remain “Always Ready”.