Sandi Starfish is back for summer 2024

Sandi Starfish is back for summer 2024
Credit: Hunstanton RNLI

Sandi Starfish is back on the northwest Norfolk coast for the tenth year running, to help families keep their children safe.

The campaign was launched in 2014 following an idea from Norfolk Constabulary's former PCSO Sandi Greenacre, who was a valued member of the team in Hunstanton.

Parents and carers are being encouraged to learn exactly what to do if their child goes missing while they are visiting the beach at Hunstanton or Heacham. Revamped posters and signs are on display across the coastal areas highlighting the simple steps parents can take. Leaflets are also being distributed to holiday parks, local tourist attractions, shops and cafes in the town.

Inspector Ben Jarvis is the west Norfolk local policing Inspector: “Our coastline here in west Norfolk is a wonderful place to visit and lots of families enjoy spending time here every summer. Whilst we have very few instances where children get separated from their parents we want to do everything we can to make sure that when it does happen they are reunited with their grown-ups as quickly as possible.

“There are some simple steps you can take when you arrive. Take a photo of your child when you arrive so you have an up-to-date photo of what they are wearing. When you do settle somewhere on the beach make sure you know which Sandi zone you are in, this is really helpful for the emergency services if we do need to find you. Try to arrange a meeting place for you all, ideally somewhere easy to spot from a distance away. Finally, if you do get separated from your child then please call 999 as it is an emergency.

“Children do occasionally wander off and although the vast majority of missing children are found very quickly, it is still a traumatic experience. Sandi saw how distressing it can be when parents and children become separated and was keen to help families stay safe on the beach. Very sadly, Sandi passed away in 2013 so I'm delighted that ten years on this scheme is still helping families and continuing Sandi's legacy.”

Sandi Starfish is supported by the Borough Council of King’s Lynn and west Norfolk.

Cllr Jo Rust, Borough Council of King’s Lynn & West Norfolk Cabinet member for People and Communities, said: “Thankfully we do not get many lost children, but when it happens, it can be distressing for everyone involved.

“The borough council has been working in partnership with Norfolk Police on this scheme for the last ten years and it continues to help reunite lost children with their parents on West Norfolk beaches.”

WEB Kate Craven Michael Fysh Photography

Kate Craven at last year's Sandcastle Competition. Credit: Michael Fysh Photography

Kate Craven, Water Safety Officer for the RNLI in North Norfolk, said: “Our coastline is to be enjoyed, our boathouse is open 11-3 Monday to Saturday and visitors see the Station as a beacon to aid in the instance of a missing child. Our Boathouse attendees often see a panicked parent and with the zones clearly marked (our beach entrance is zone 9), we can do our bit to signpost to the emergency services to allow the police and coastguard to get to the incident really quickly.”

There isn't a wristband scheme in operation again this year.

As part of this popular seaside scheme, the coastal area from South Beach in Heacham to Holme-next-the-Sea is divided into 10 Sandi Starfish Zones. Details of the zones have been shared with the constabulary's Contact and Control Room, Borough Council of King's Lynn and West Norfolk, HM Coastguard and the RNLI. Signs are on display in each zone.

There is also the option to use What3words which has divided the world into 3m x 3m squares and converted complex GPS coordinates into unique three-word addresses. The system has been integrated into Norfolk Constabulary's Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system. More information on what3words is available at Helpful tips for families planning a trip to the beach also include:

  • Take a photo of your child on your phone or digital camera as soon as you arrive at the beach. In the event they wander off, you can show the photo to officers so they know who they are looking for. It's vital to remember what your child is wearing. Bright, eye catching clothing is ideal.
  • Make a note of your Sandi zone.
  • Agree a meeting point – choose a location on the beach where you agree to meet if you become separated.
  • Familiarise your child with the beach environment – show them where they can and can't go.

If you become separated:

  • Call 999 – a missing child is an emergency.
  • Remain calm – stay in the spot where the child last saw you.
  • Stay on the phone to emergency services until police arrive.

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