The phones – which are painted bright yellow and are located near to popular stretches of the coast – link directly to HM Coastguard who, at a moments notice, can mobilise helicopters, lifeboats and Coastguard Rescue Teams to a person or vessel in danger.
The removal of the SOS phones was announced back in February as part of the Isle of Wight Council’s budget for 2015/16, but have remained in place until now. The Isle of Wight Council say the phones will be removed by the end of May.
Although mobile phones are owned by near enough everyone nowadays, the yellow emergency telephone allows reliable, hard-wired and direct contact to the emergency services no matter what.
Due to notoriously poor mobile phone signal in the area, the emergency telephone at Ventnor is to remain in place. There are hopes that Freshwater Lifeboat Station will take over the running of a phone located in Freshwater Bay and similarly for Ryde Inshore Rescue to take over a phone at Appley.
In total 15 phones are set to go at locations including East Cowes, Seaview, Seagrove Bay, Bembridge, Yaverland, Lake and Bonchurch in the East Wight plus phones at Chale, Atherfield, Brook, Brighstone, Compton, Alum Bay, Brambles Chine and Gurnard in the West.
Councillor Phil Jordan, Isle of Wight Council Executive member for public protection, has said:
“It is well known the council is facing significant budget pressures and we must consider all aspects of what we provide. Providing emergency telephones on beaches is not a statutory requirement and our usage data shows not a single council-run emergency telephone anywhere on the Island has been used for over three and a half years.
“Technology has moved on since they were installed, which was at a time when there were no mobile phones, and they are becoming more obsolete and unused for contacting emergency services.
“We are confident that people will still use personal phones if the need arises to contact the emergency services. We are, however, retaining the phone in Ventnor due to current poor mobile phone signal in the area where it is located”.
UPDATE @ 14:06 – The Maritime and Coastguard Agency has this afternoon told Island Echo:
“The decision to remove the emergency telephones is one for the local authority concerned, however the public can be reassured that the Council’s decision will not effect HM Coastguard’s ability to coordinate search and rescue”.