Coastal Heroes: An interview with Chris Missen

April 12, 2018

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Chris Missen

For the next in our series of interviews with Bridgend County's Coastal Heroes we speak to the RNLI's Chris Missen about his bronze medal for Gallantry and how he juggles working at the RNLI with owning a chip shop.

Could you start by telling me how you got involved with the RNLI?

My family has always been involved with the charity so I'd wanted to join from an early age. My Auntie and uncle were members of the crew and my brother is too. You have to be 17 to join the lifeboat crew so it was the first thing I did on my 17th birthday!

You've received the RNLI bronze medal for Gallantry - looking back, which rescue have you felt most proud to be a part of?

It's got to be that one. I was employed with the National Flood Rescue Team at the time in Basingstoke and we were called out to a lady who had been trapped in the flood. It was the one rescue I thought we'd pushed our luck and to be honest I thought we weren't going to come out. But to have a woman turn around and say you had given her son his Christmas back is quite special. That one really stands out and reminds me why I do the job. There isn't a feeling like it to know you've bought someone back from the verge of death and I feel very lucky to be able to do what I do.

What goes through your mind when you're responding to an incident like that?

When you're responding to an incident you don't have time to think or worry about anything else. You are completely focussed on getting the job done to achieve the best outcome possible. But it really helps to have a big support network around you - I'm lucky that I have so many family members in the team, but as a crew we treat everyone like family - as cheesy as it sounds! If you need help with anything the crew will always be there.

What does it take to become an RNLI lifeboat crew? Fitness tests/first aid?

From joining, it's a continual assessment of your dedication and abilities. For the first six months the most dangerous thing you'll touch is a hose pipe, but it's an important period to prove your commitment to the team. Now, we train every Wednesday night and Sunday morning to make sure we are prepared for anything that comes our way. We also have station cleaning and kit checks which keep us busy.

What does a typical day look like for you?

My days can vary quite a lot. I've got my own chip shop (The Boathouse Fish Bar in Porthcawl) and I'm also a traffic police officer. It's pretty full on! Depending on my policing shift I will work in the chip shop during the day. That's fine if I get called out because the shop is not far from the lifeboat station. It gets a little more complicated when I'm policing as it depends how many officers are on duty at the time to cover.

How do you juggle such a busy schedule with full time work?

As a shift worker, it's a lot easier for me to juggle my work with the lifeboat than it is for some. We get around 100 call-outs a year so for those with more restricted jobs that can be quite disruptive to work.

When do you get the majority of your incidents?

Our busiest time tends to be the summer time, but it all depends on the tide. Porthcawl and the Bridgend area has the second biggest tidal range in the world, so if people have gone for a walk when the tide's coming in and got cut off, that's when we get the call.  Our last call out was at about 11pm when a teenagers lost track of the tide and got cut off - it can happen to anyone.

What do you love about the beaches around Bridgend?

I love the fact that wherever you are, within 10-15 minutes you can be on beautiful sandy beaches with the waves crashing around you. It's awesome. I think it's amazing that you can be on the countryside and still be a stone's throw from stunning beaches. That's something I think is really unique.

What do you do in your spare time?

Lifeboats are my free time really! I've got my own little boat so I love pottering around in the new porthcawl marina and checking out all the other little boats. I think it's beautiful and a fantastic new asset to Bridgend.

Lastly, what advice would you give to people hoping to stay safe at sea this summer?

Always go to a lifeguarded beach and if they are not on duty at the time then always let someone know where you are and ask them to look out for you.

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