This week we split into three groups for training, with some people back at base continuing the Water Awareness and safety training coupled with some Casualty Care (First Aid) training.
However, this article will focus on the practical water search and rescue training which took place in the River Dee at Mile End Mill, near Llangollen.
When team members are searching near water we need to consider the most serious incident that might happen, which is normally that a team member accidentally enters the water (“falls in” – to you and me!).
If they do fall in to fast flowing water then they need to be able to navigate their way through potentially dangerous water conditions and get out, either on their own or with the assistance of other team members on the bank.
To make sure we can search water edges safely we operate a very structured approach.
A minimum four person party always searches heading upstream so hazards coming down in the flow can be seen more readily. A bit like the advice to always walk facing oncoming traffic on a road without a pavement.
The first three team members would be fully kitted in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE); dry suits, buoyancy aids; carrying throw lines and other safety related items.
Lead person is “upstream spotter”, looking for hazards that might be coming down in the flow, like trees or branches, but could include washed away cars etc! Their job is to warn the other members, usually by using their whistle and pointing as it is often too noisy for shouting and verbal instructions. A set of readily understood and agreed hand signals are used.
The “searcher”. This person is next to the water edge looking for the missing person. They may be the most vulnerable as they are likely to be close to the edge.
The “downstream catcher”. The “back marker” of the group, ready to indicate with hand signals or shouted instructions or use a throw line to help anyone who falls in.
The last member would not normally wear water PPE. This is the “party leader”. They stay safely back from the edge, they can carry kit for the rest of the group and have a radio to keep in contact with Control.
If we have plenty of people we may include another searcher and another downstream catcher.
The photos show various techniques being taught and practised with regard to swimming and escaping from the water after “accidental immersion”.
All this equipment is expensive, costing several hundred pounds to kit out one rescuer. Please consider a donation. Donate here
NOTE: Water search and rescue is inherently dangerous. Getting close to water, or worse still getting into water, to search or try to rescue someone, without the proper training and equipment, is potentially very dangerous. Do not attempt water rescue. Sadly every year in the UK several people are killed trying to rescue others from water.
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