Heroes of the Unpredictable – Meet RNLI Volunteer Becs Miller
The RNLI is a charity organization dedicated to saving lives at sea. Comprised primarily of volunteers, there are thousands of people who support the RNLI’s cause. From fund raising volunteers to lifeguards and lifeboat crews, dedicated people across the UK and Ireland sacrifice their time to help save lives at sea.
For lifeboat station volunteers, the challenging and dangerous conditions of ocean rescue require a truly dedicated person. What does it take to volunteer with the RNLI? We were lucky enough to get to know one of these extraordinary volunteers, Becs Miller.
Why Become an RNLI Volunteer?
Becs Miller became an RNLI volunteer because she “thought it’d be a great thing to be able to do.” She always liked to help people and wanted to contribute to her community. This reasoning sounds deceptively simple, but when you look at Becs’ history, it’s clear that she’s a person who loves a challenge.
Becs runs in marathons, spends a lot of time in the outdoors, and loves to swim in the cold North Sea. Before becoming an RNLI volunteer, Becs worked in financial services for 22 years. She then took a career break where she carried out voluntary work in Dutch Antilles, followed by teaching English in Barcelona. Becs loves to be on the water and took some time to sail the oceans, then returned to banking for a while before moving to France and eventually back to the UK.
RNLI Training – Commitment and Hard Work
When Becs started training with the RNLI, she deliberately began in October. Because autumn in Scotland has dark nights and cold, stormy weather, it seemed like a great time to start. She thought, “if I can get through a winter, I can do a summer. That was the mindset.” True to form, Becs went all-in from the start.
As she described the training:
“It’s pretty intense. We usually do a Sunday, Monday, and a Thursday. And I really wanted to make sure that there was nothing that the guys could do that I couldn’t do. Physical strength is a big part of it. I look after myself. I go to the gym and go running. But there’s also the other part of it. You need to be empathetic, especially if you’re going to a casualty.”
In addition to the initial intense training that all crew members undertake, the volunteers must maintain their skillset throughout the year with a minimum of once-a-week training. There are also assessors that come to the station to test their competency on a regular basis. Ultimately, the training is this intense and thorough for a reason: the RNLI must go on challenging rescue missions and be prepared for the unpredictable.
Ocean Rescue in The Unpredictable North Sea – The Dunbar Lifeboat Station
Every winter, the northern coast of Scotland is struck by icy cold weather that’s swept over from Russia and can last for months. Many people simply don’t understand the severity of how cold the water is and can suffer from cold water shock. Cold water shock response happens when a person is immersed in water (most likely from falling in) and the immediate shock of the cold causes involuntary inhalation. If one is underwater, it can result in drowning.
Freezing temperatures and changing tides create conditions rife for rescue. Becs and her Dunbar Station crew mates are often called out to rescue missions when a local boat has broken down, pleasure yachts have gone aground, people in general distress and are having a difficult time getting back to land, or a body needs to be recovered.
We are very individual people, but we are a good team as well. There’s a lot of camaraderie. When the chips are down, I trust my crew mates with my life.
The Diverse Group of RNLI Volunteers – Team, Community, Friendship
When the pager goes off, Becs will drop whatever she’s doing and go directly into these harsh conditions. When she meets her team they think about what needs to be the focus and communicate what needs to happen so that everyone knows their role. Because the conditions can be really challenging, Becs relies on her close-knit team for support before, during, and after every rescue.
Becs’ team consists of a diverse group of volunteers, including fishermen, doctors, and even workers on a wind farm. Becs was Crew Member of the Year in 2016, a title that she feels especially proud of because of how much she respects her team. As she puts it, “I’m massively proud of being a part of the crew. We are very individual people, but we are a good team as well. There’s a lot of camaraderie. When the chips are down, I trust my crew mates with my life.” This community is both something to work for and with . . . and it’s a perfect example of why the RNLI works so effectively across the UK and Ireland to help save lives at sea.