Tim Hughes, Chartered MCSI, speeds along the Thames every month to save everyone from dog walkers to distressed naturalists
by Lora Benson
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Juggling a career in the City with a “fascination with boats and the sea” has been easy for Tim Hughes, Chartered MCSI, thanks to his volunteer duties with the Chiswick RNLI lifeboat crew in London. “I don’t have to leave the city every weekend to get on the water,” says Tim, who runs his own specialist financial services compliance boutique in London, Ionstar, focusing on asset management, hedge funds and the brokerage world.
“In my time with the crew, I’ve been involved in a full range of incidents: body recovery, CPR, phantom searches, wet dog walkers and a naturalist stuck on Chiswick Eyot after the tide came in,” he says.
Risky environmentThe crew is ready to launch within 90 seconds of a call from the UK Coastguard and responds several hundred times per year to emergencies anywhere between Richmond half-tide lock and Battersea. The minimum crew is three but ideally four, which can make a big difference with a serious or multiple-casualty situation, or tricky casualty extraction.
The crew operates in an inherently risky environment around fast-moving water, in a powerful, fast lifeboat. “The people we are tasked to help are not always in a good place and often in distress, whether through alcohol, drugs or mental illness,” says Tim. “They can be a danger to themselves as well as to us. To mitigate these risks, the ongoing training focuses on safest best practice, learning from prior incidents and situational awareness to dynamically risk assess our environment.”
Perhaps surprisingly, dog walkers represent the highest risk group. The crew frequently helps people who have got themselves into trouble trying to assist their dogs. “The dogs are almost always fine, but the experience can be harrowing and potentially life-threatening for the caller,” says Tim.
Tim joined the crew in 2013 and undertook a series of orientation days on sequential weekends. “After a dozen or so shifts as provisional crew and passing the theory test, I was a qualified 3rd seat (2nd seat is the mechanic/ navigator and 1st seat or helm is in charge and drives the boat),” says Tim.
“In 2014 I did the lifeboat’s own three-day casualty carer course at Tower RNLI Lifeboat Station by Waterloo Bridge and an additional five-day crew course at the charity’s headquarters in Poole. This involved storm and capsize simulations in the sea survival centre, hands on experience in all-weather lifeboats and the use of flares.”
Tim’s commitment as a volunteer is between two and four shifts per month, each being 12 hours long. Day shifts run from 7am to 7pm and night shifts from 7pm to 7am.
He also volunteers with the education team, run by the RNLI office. As part of this, each summer he speaks to over 200 children in his local area about beach safety.
There is a fun but serious side to Tim’s volunteering: “I get to play with boats and spend time afloat in London. Night-time passages to central London to refuel are quite magical and I feel privileged to be able to see such a different side of the city. You must be committed and put the time in, but I derive a great sense of satisfaction from the role – even after a string of shifts with no service calls – of a job well done."
This article was originally published in the Q2 2017 print edition of The Review. The print edition is available to all members who opt in to receive it, except student members. All eligible members who would like to receive future editions in the post should log in to MyCISI, click on My Account/Communications and set their preference to 'Yes'.