Major storms and floods across Britain show the need to retain expert coastguard resources and knowledge in our coastal communities, the Public and Commercial Services union said yesterday.
As well as co-ordinating rescue operations at sea, coastguard staff have been assisting other emergency services and the Environment Agency in cities and towns.
Retired staff had to be brought in to provide a skeleton emergency service and in Liverpool untrained volunteers have been used to provide cover.
Recently stations in Clyde and Forth in Scotland, and Yarmouth in the east of England have been closed and five others - Swansea, Liverpool, Walton on the Naze, Brixham and Portland - are earmarked for shutdown.
PCS revealed last year that all stations were understaffed, and published official figures showing almost a quarter of shifts were staffed below the risk assessed levels between January 2012 and May 2013.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "The response to the storms shows just how invaluable the local knowledge and expertise of coastguard staff are to our coastal communities.
"Ministers must put an immediate halt to their station closure plans that we continue to believe will put lives at risk."
Britain is enduring the worst series of winter storms in more than 20 years, as the country prepares for even more flooding.
The Environment Agency has issued 73 flood warnings throughout England and Wales urging people to take immediate action, while a further 218 areas are on flood alert.
Coastal areas, particularly in southern England, are most at risk as they cope with a combination of unusually high tides and another Atlantic storm.
Two people have already died in the storms.
A 27-year-old man from Surrey was found on Porthleven Sands beach in Cornwall after he was swept out to sea on New Year's Eve, and a woman died after being rescued from the sea in Croyde Bay, north Devon.
Officials around the country have pleaded with people to keep away as dozens put their lives at risk by going to coastal areas to watch as the storm brought waves of up to 40ft high crashing onto land.
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