Peter Doyle: RNLI Teddington Volunteer
What inspired you to join your local RNLI lifeboat crew? Was there a specific incident or moment that made you want to volunteer?
Well, I’d recently joined the ambulance service to be a paramedic. I was working with two other crew members who were both within the RNLI. They told me all about it, and about these Thames stations that I’d not had any understanding of in the past. Obviously, I knew that they were a coastal based service, I knew that they where very good at what they did, but I never thought that I could be on a boat. So it was just coming down to the station and meeting the people. They were very keen to have me on board. Everything about being on a boat I’ve learnt through the RNLI, and it’s been great. They’re such a good bunch of people, so professional with their training and everything they teach us it’s just been really good and I’ve wanted to keep going with it.
The RNLI has a long and proud history of saving lives at sea. How much is that heritage taught as part of the culture, and does it inspire you to do what you do?
In our Thames stations we were relatively new to the game. It all started after the Marchioness disaster that we’re sort of told all about within the Thames stations. It was a disaster on the river that didn’t really have a specific response to it; it was just reliant on the various other boats and the fire service and police. The rescue operation didn’t go amazingly well… I mean, they did a really god job but it wasn’t a great result. Since then, they’ve decided what would be better would be to have a professional rescue service on the Thames all the time, that are very competent with boats and dealing with those sorts of situations. So that’s been the ethos of our station; to constantly remind ourselves why we have these Thames stations, and obviously what we’re trying to prevent as best we can, but also then help out if things do go wrong.
To many you’re considered Heroes. There’s even a bit of a superhero comparison with how the pager goes off and you have to run out and get changed into gear in a flash. But how do you personally view the volunteering work you do?
So when I started at the station, I was very much keen to come down and help bring the experience of being on the ambulance in casualty care and help to train people. I mean, it’s great being on the boat. It’s great when the pager goes off and you want to get out and help someone. And definitely, the first thing I’ll be doing is apologising to my girlfriend as I run out the door for another call. Haha! But the biggest part for me is sharing my knowledge with the other crew and I love going and talking to the school kids and helping them learn about water safety; learn more about how they can help others on the water as well. So, for me, it’s just a case of trying to prevent these accidents happening. It’s great going out to help people, but ultimately the ideal is that we wouldn’t have to, that everyone would be safe on the water. The more we can get in touch with schools and things like that, the more that they will be able to pass it along.
As a paramedic in your day job, and an RNLI volunteer outside of that, your life seems pretty much entirely geared around saving lives. What’s the driving force behind that? And are there skills you use that transfer across both?
It all started from my Dad who was a fire fighter, so I grew up in that environment of the emergency service background. My twin brother joined and went after my Dad, becoming a fire fighter, and it was always something I wanted to do. The ambulance service came up as an option, I had a science degree and I thought, “yep, that’s something I want to have a good go”. Then I joined the RNLI and now I’ve got even more skills. If you think about water and dealing with water incidents, it’s definitely helped when I’ve gone on the ambulance dealing with similar water incidents. So the skills are definitely interchangeable.
On the lifeboat generally I’m doing a lot of the casualty care. Most of the helms are quite happy when I’m on the boat because they know that I’ll look after that, so it’s one less thing for them to think about. I’m looking forward to my career going on now – I’m looking to get into the fire and rescue service as well, so that will be three of the emergency services all in one go! So I’m looking forward to keeping up being on an ambulance every so often, being a full time fire fighter for Surrey Fire & Rescue, and then still being on the lifeboat. So for me, a big part of it is helping others. A massive part.
Can you sum up your work with the RNLI in one word?
In one word I think I’d say... caring.
Not just from the point of view of helping others, but also from the family within the lifeboat station. I’ve come to this area and not known anyone, and people are willing to come and show me the pubs and take me out and have a chat with me and be very friendly. I’ve met probably some of the best friends I’ve ever had just at this lifeboat station, so it’s been really good for me. So yeah, definitely caring.
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