Figures released by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution show an increase of 13% in the number of launches carried out by lifeboats last year compared to 2008.

The country's 43 lifeboat stations launched lifeboats 976 times and rescued 1,008 people in 2009.

The busiest station was Dún Laoghaire, where the crew launched 68 times and rescued 92 people.

Other busy stations were Bangor in Co Down, the Aran Islands lifeboat in Galway and the Enniskillen stations on Lough Erne.

The most common reason for launching a lifeboat was machinery failure, followed by a vessel becoming stranded or grounded.

The RNLI says that people should prepare themselves in order to avoid dangerous situations by wearing a well-fitting life jacket, telling others where they are going, and checking engines, fuel and tides.

People should also use VHF radio and carry distress flares, rather than relying on mobile phones, which can go out of range.