RNLI volunteer safety officer John Soones has been awarded the BEM (British Empire Medal) for his invaluable work in preventing drowning along the Thames and for his efforts in trying to reduce the number of suicides on the river.
John originally joined the RNLI as a Life Governor nearly 40 years ago after the RNLI helped rescue him following a diving accident. In later life he applied to become crew at Chiswick Lifeboat Station but finding himself too old to serve on the lifeboat he became a voluntary Lifeboat Sea Safety Officer.
Working tirelessly with many partner organisations he has helped drive forward a wide range of safety initiatives to help reduce the number of drownings on the river. With Teddington Lifeboat station crew, he was instrumental in setting up the programme to train staff at riverside pubs and clubs on the Thames to use throwlines. This initiative has saved a number of lives on the river and the programme has now been taken up by the RNLI nationally.
A significant proportion of Thames lifeboat launches involve potential suicides. John initiated discussions with the Samaritans and other agencies to address this issue. John is also chair of the British Diving Safety Group. In partnership with the Group the RNLI developed a Diver Sea Survival course now offered at the Lifeboat College in Poole.
John said: ‘I’m delighted that the work I’ve done over the past ten years has been recognised in some way. I’m one member of a very big team – there are a lot of people walking around today who wouldn’t be otherwise because of the work we’ve done.’