Water rescue capability has been increased for Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service, an active member of the EU Flood Rescue project, Watersave. The Service has recently taken delivery of a Defra-funded water rescue boat, increasing the county's capability to three craft.
The Defra bid was entered following the March 2008 CLG Flooding Review report, 'Facing the Challenge', to cover the cost of additional water rescue capability to support both out of county response and internal business continuity and resilience.
Wide area flood response within Cheshire is co-ordinated with the use of multi-agency flood response plans prepared by the local authorities under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004. The plans identified that water rescue capability within the county was required at two primary locations - Warrington on the River Mersey, and Chester on the River Dee. Investment has been made in training and equipping all operational Service personnel in water safety and bank side rescue. The arrival of the third boat allows for out of county deployments without the loss of any internal capability.
The boat the Service has chosen as ideal for the job is the SIT ResQcraft 5000 inflatable rescue boat complete with Evinrude E-tec 30 outboard. It's a fully inflatable craft designed to suit the needs of emergency services and rapid response units.
Deployable within three minutes, trailered or carried by four people to location, the major factors of its design are speed of deployment, ease of transportation and tough durability. Inflated, the external length is 5.0m with an internal length of 3.9m and width of 2.15m. The tube and hull material is hypalon coated 1100 dtex polyester. The 40mm no wood composite transom has a maximum pay load of 900kg and is ideally suited to 30hp outboards with long shafts.
When stowed, the dimensions are 40x70x160cm with an inflation deployment time of three minutes, although Cheshire will be keeping the craft at immediate readiness, transporting it inflated with outboard mounted.
Fully equipped, accompanying kit includes inflatable petrol tanks, searchlights, waterproof radios, full boat safety kit including flares, Jacob's Cradle, Eurocraft rescue sled, two piece stretcher, first aid bags and lifejackets.
A 4x4 vehicle and trailer was included in the bid application. A Landrover Discovery 4, liveried and equipped with radio and blue lights, has been procured as the dedicated water rescue vehicle for the Eurocraft 490.
This additional outfit will be crewed by a team of 12 personnel dedicated for 24 hour on-call out of county deployment. They are Cheshire's UKISAR team, trained and equipped to be self-sufficient for 48 hours.
The successful bid has also provided for a wading response capability of 120 wading suits and 40 wading poles distributed to ten of Cheshire's fire stations for response and rescue in high risk areas of flooding across the county.
The boat, ancillaries, vehicle and wading response have been funded by Defra, with Cheshire FRS bearing the cost of initial training and ongoing refresher training, skills maintenance for moving water wading response, water awareness, swift water rescue, RYAII and power boat for rescue. Water training is carried out in Llangollen, North Wales, and provided by the Service's own Operational Training Group.
Additionally, all PPE (helmets, drysuits, gloves, undersuits, rescue boots, personal flotation devices, knives, torches and throwlines) have been bought by the Service.
Mark Coleman, Cheshire Fire and Rescue's Operational Research and Development Manager, says: "This investment by Defra puts us in a strong position to respond even more effectively to rescue situations and unexpected environmental events such as flooding and represents a real boost not only to Cheshire's waterways but to our out of county resilience. The successful bid underpins our commitment to safety and our ability to reflect and deal with real issues and dangers in our planning."
The Service's other two units, based at Chester and Warrington Fire Stations close to two of the county's largest water systems, each comprise a 4x4 vehicle and fully equipped Eurocraft 4.9m rescue boat, rescue sled and inflatable pathway. Knutsford Fire Station's Rope Rescue team has also received additional water training and is equipped with a rescue sled to enable them to carry out water rescues and provide support to the Water Rescue units.