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SECTOR: Charitable & Non-profit |
DELIVERY: Software Development |
SERVICE: Support | Team Augmentation |

“Many thanks for all your hard work, excellent result. I think the new functionality works really well!” Senior Operations Manager, RNLI

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is the largest charity saving lives at sea around the coasts of the UK and Ireland. With over 400 lifeboats, the RNLI saves many lives every day. Additionally, the institute carries out life-saving education, teaching young people sea and beach safety.


The Search & Rescue Units branch of RNLI had no central platform for documentation, and there was no central way of storing data and creating reports.

It was decided a system was needed for the Community Lifesaving Team — a place for policies, procedures, training materials, risk assessments, guidance and a range of other types of informational documents. The system was named Horizon.


Horizon was built on the SharePoint platform with a site for authorized content creators and a site for all RNLI employees and volunteers. SharePoint search is used for surfacing information between the two sites.

The way Horizon displays its documents and pages via an A-Z list. When a page is created or a document uploaded, metadata is assigned. Content will be displayed based on filters.

There are four applications connected to Horizon to help crew and Managers interact visually with the different assets:

  • Area Lifesaving Map (ALM) – This application uses Google Map API software. The ALM map provides an interactive way to check the areas that a user is responsible for. The map is broken down into six regions and within those regions, there are forty-one areas. If you then click within the region it displays the relevant RNLI assets.
  • Crew Cover Database – Lists were created within the SharePoint site for Crew Cover, containing such information as Cover Availability, Cover Reasons, Cover Requests, Crew Members and Crew Station Settings.
  • House Swap – Families of the crew can ‘house swap’ so they can arrange amongst themselves holidays with other families of crew, places to stay for coverage and so forth.
  • Senior Ops Visits Map – This application uses Google Map API software. Senior Operations Managers mark if they have visited a station via the map. It’s an easy way to track what assets have been visited and in what time frame.

The applications are maintained via SharePoint Lists. These lists are essentially Rows and Columns of information with headers that are linked to areas of the applications. They can be exported to spreadsheets and the data can be stored or analysed depending on what is required from it.

The site includes an RSS style feed for Horizon pages and documents. A user subscribes to the pages or documents they are interested in and if it gets updated it will appear in a collapsible sidebar for twenty-one days. This gives users a chance to check what has been changed or updated.

A SharePoint Workflow was created to automate the reviewing process of content pages. Each page has a Review Date assigned and an automated reminder email gets sent out to the page owner before the review date. The page owner then makes any needed changes or ensures the data is still current and then sets the new Review Date.

Additionally, two further applications were created for the Community Lifesaving Team.

The first for storing monthly Safety and Rescue (SAR) Unit declarations and the second for storing Management Assurances and quarterly declarations.

The SAR app has the following capabilities

  • The ability for stations, support centres and flood rescue team managers to input their declarations according to the five designated categories: safety attitudes, community lifesaving plan, lifesaving performance, personnel and equipment.
  • Station, support centres and flood rescue team managers can see who in their operational team have permission to input monthly declarations and request changes according to individual needs.
  • Controlled access according to group permissions.
  • Area Lifesaving Managers (ALMs) can amend their declarations.
  • View graphs depicting historical declaration information to analyse trends in the underlying data.
  • View declaration data in a map view.
  • Upload pictures of the assurance boards with each declaration.
  • ALMs log their visits to stations, support centres, and flood team offices.
  • View monthly declaration comments in one place.

The app is designed to capture the Red, Amber and Green (RAG) status of each of the five category headings of the assurance board.

The Management Assurances App

The core principle of the app is that as the management assurance on a SAR unit progresses, the app produces a SAR unit improvement plan. If any assurance item is allocated a RED status by the ALM, the app automatically adds to the SAR unit improvement plan, to which the ALM can add comments, who is required to action the item, the target completion date etc. The ALM can also manually add an item which is green or amber or they can add an action to the improvement pan which is completely unrelated to the assurance if it is deemed relevant to the SAR unit.

The improvement plan is a continuously evolving plan to aid the station in ensuring that it is ready in all respects to carry out its lifesaving tasks.

Quarterly Management Assurance declarations are made so that the RAG statuses can be monitored and analysed by Lifesaving Managers and Support so issues and trends can be identified and action taken.

There are four main sections of the app:

  • Assurance: This is where details of all the assurance items are held, where they are recorded, actions listed etc.
  • Declarations: This section provides the functionality for ALMs to make their quarterly declarations for each of their SAR units.
  • Improvement Plans: If any item is audited and its RAG status is set as red, an automated improvement plan is made. This section shows all improvement plan actions and provides the capability for SAR unites to print out their own personalised action plan.
  • Reports: This section provides a broad selection of automated reports and statistics which can be used to monitor overall progress as a summary of quarterly audit comments.

The support hours began on go-live of the system with hours purchased on account and called off as they are used. The support is flexible and uncomplicated, being used for fixes, as well as updates, routine maintenance and system health checks.


The Horizon site became increasingly more popular than the RNLI intranet and though originally designed for the Community Lifesaving team, now everyone has access to Horizon as it is easier to locate policies, procedures and guidance materials.

“We are happy to be the long-term technology partner for an organisation like RNLI who daily save lives around the country.” Andrew Chalmers, MD Ballard Chalmers

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