Joe and Petunia “Dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard” for a new generation

Did you know that 50% of people still don’t know to call 999 and ask for the Coastguard in a coastal emergency – despite the phone service being launched half a century ago?

The new research, commissioned by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA), comes as a new video is launched in tribute to the old public information film which first broadcast the ‘999 Coastguard’ message in 1968.

Joe and Petunia are back, but this time in a dynamic present-day setting. The new film showcases a modern version of the original 60s storyline, complete with dinghy (or dinjy!) sailor and contemporary Petunia. But, they couldn’t release a J&P film without the cartoon characters themselves, so they both have cameo roles.

The first Joe and Petunia public information film was released in 1968 to tell members of the public that they could reach the Coastguard by calling 999. So this year, they are celebrating 50 years of being part of the 999 network.

They’ve changed a bit since then, but the message is still the same; hence the new film stars the original Joe imploring the public, if they see people in trouble at sea or around the coast, to “dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard”.

In 1968, the public information film starred two hapless cartoon characters, Joe and Petunia, who, after watching a dinghy sailor in difficulty, eventually made the right decision to ‘dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard’. The 1 ½ minute film was hugely popular throughout the 1960s and 1970s with many people quoting Joe’s “coooeeee!” and “that’s what they call them you know, sailing dinjys”.

The 2018 version still stars Joe in his cartoon version and Petunia (present-day and Sixties voice). The dinghy sailor also has a starring role, although only in his 2018 version. All of the modern-day actors are Coastguard or RNLI volunteers or staff and the new film squeezes a Coastguard operations room, a cliff scene with Coastguard and Petunia and an at-sea scene with the Coastguard helicopter, RNLI lifeboat and dinghy sailor into its 40 seconds.

Maritime Minister Nusrat Ghani said ‘We’re all hoping the Bank Holiday weekend and half term break will be filled with sunshine so we can get out and about and enjoy our beautiful countryside and miles of beaches.

‘But we all need to remember the seaside can be dangerous and to know who to call if things go wrong.

‘It’s great to see Joe and Petunia, the original characters of the Coastguard advert, brought back to life to highlight this vital service and to call 999 if you get into an emergency.’

Julie-Anne Wood, Head of Maritime Operations for the MCA said ‘We are hugely proud of our Coastguard service in the UK. We are one of the most technologically advanced in the world and it comes as second nature to call ourselves one of four emergency services which can be reached by calling 999 and asking for the Coastguard.

‘However, it seems that 50 per cent of people still don’t know that they can ‘dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard’ so we are hoping that Joe will work his wonders again and remind a new generation that:

‘If you see someone in trouble along the coast or at sea ‘dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard.’


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