The coastguard sacked two volunteers after they rescued a car from a cliff edge — because, despite not being used, the agency’s Land Rover was still on the scene.
Richard Clarkson and Ian Pedrick had more than 60 years’ of life saving experience behind them when they were fired from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) after the incident in Bolberry Down near Salcombe, Devon.
Richard and Ian, who followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather by becoming a member of the coastguard 42 years ago, were part of a team sent to the scene of a runaway car.
But when they got there the crew stood down because the vehicle had stopped further down the slope and no lives were in danger.
The pair decided to change out of their coastguard uniform and used Richard’s personal Land Rover and equipment to tow it back from the cliff edge.
But because the coastguard vehicle had not been brought back to the station they were both still on duty and moving the car was not in their remit.
They were deemed to have committed a technical breach even though they has not used the coastguard’s Land Rover or any supplied equipment.
Ian said: ‘We have been dismissed with immediate effect.
Here’s the problem. The sort of people who volunteer for the Coastguard and RNLI are goal-driven, meaning they are inspired to donate their time and efforts because they want to help others. By contrast, the sort of people who infest the middle management of modern organisations are process-driven, and are concerned only that the right steps in the procedure have been followed and their next promotion is locked in. Whether some poor sod being swept out to sea lives or dies is immaterial: they didn’t join the Coastguard because they wanted to save people from drowning. Note also that the person who made the decision remains anonymous, which is consistent with this weasel statement:
The MCA said it would be ‘inappropriate to comment at this time’.
Then a few days later we had this:
Two veteran volunteer coastguards have resigned after they say they were reprimanded for taking a teenager to hospital in a van instead of an ambulance.
The officer in charge (OIC) of Croyde Coastguard Rescue Team, in Devon, said he quit after being told he would have to start his training again.
He said a female colleague with 18 years’ experience also resigned.
The former coastguard said on Sunday 23 June at 01:00 BST his team was called to help an 18-year-old man who had drunk too much and was unconscious, cold and wet in the sand dunes.
They found him and together with a paramedic put him on a stretcher to wait for an ambulance.
“We had a couple of ambulances on route but they were diverted,” he said, adding that the paramedic said it could be two hours before an ambulance was available.
He said they put the young man in the back of his van with the paramedic and drove to hospital.
He was reprimanded the next day and told he would have to go back through the training process, he said.
The former coastguard said he accepted he did not follow the guidelines, but had acted in the best interests of the casualty.
There is no room for judgement or nuance in the modern organisation. It is follow the rules to the letter or face the consequences. This approach might work if you’re running an airline or an oil company, but not when you’re dealing with volunteer organisations. Volunteers by definition are driven by intrinsic motivators – a sense of purpose, responsibility, task ownership, task identification, self-esteem, etc. – rather than extrinsic motivators such as a salary. If you kill off those motivators then people simply won’t volunteer any more. I give it a generation before the likes of the RNLI and Coastguard are bereft of volunteers and begging the government for funds.
As a wise man once said, while processes and procedures are necessary for the efficient and effective running of an organisation, they must remain subservient to the organisation’s primary goals.