The RNLI Flood Rescue Team is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to deploy to flooding events in the UK, Ireland and abroad to perform search and rescue. The team comprises lifeboat crews from all around the RNLI, who have been specially trained for the risks involved when working in or around fast moving flood water.
The team was formed in 2000, and we now have six divisional teams strategically positioned to respond to a flood anywhere in the UK or the RoI within 6 hours – a total of 250 team members. Fifty of these team members form the international Flood Rescue Team, who can deploy anywhere in the world within 24 hours.
The Flood Rescue Team relies upon voluntary donations, and is kindly supported by Toolstation. The team does not receive government funding for responding to UK floods. However, the cost of international deployment is borne by the UK Department for International Development.
Each team has two boats, a rescue van and a Land Rover, as well as all ancillary equipment to allow the team to operate self sufficiently for 48 hours, such as an operational base gazebo, electric generators, food, refreshments, scene lighting and maintenance equipment.
When deployed, the team integrates with the Fire and Rescue Service Command and Control system. We operate within the guidelines set out in the DEFRA Flood Rescue National Enhancement Project Concept of Operations.
The RNLI’s international Flood Rescue Team (iFRT) is a group of specially trained lifeboatmen and women who have volunteered to be ready to travel anywhere in the world to assist in flood relief work. They have additional skills for working overseas, including previous experience in developing countries and disaster zones, as well as specific skills such as being a doctor, paramedic, linguist or mechanic. They also have all necessary vaccinations to enable them to deploy at a moment's notice.
RNLI lifeboats have been involved in inland rescues as far back as the 1930s. In January 1937, after 12 days of gales and rain, the River Dee flooded, causing widespread damage and cutting off many buildings. Before the official formation of the Flood Rescue Team, lifeboat crew members were involved in major international flood-relief efforts in Bangladesh (1970).
The Flood Rescue Team was born out of the RNLI’s involvement with the Mozambique floods of February 2000. A team of eight, with six D class inflatable lifeboats, was deployed for search and rescue purposes and ended up providing humanitarian aid to some 10,000 people. In 2005, six boats and a team of 20 were deployed to Guyana, when heavy rain and flooding affected 250,000 people.
In the UK, the Flood Rescue Team formed a core part of the response to the 2007 floods in South Yorkshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire; the Morpeth floods in 2008; Cockermouth in 2009; St Austell, Cornwall, in 2010, and the Aberystwyth and Borth floods in 2012.
The work our volunteers do as part of the Flood Rescue Team is very different to their RNLI sea rescue role, so specialist training is essential. They are all experienced lifeboat crew, but the situations and environments they may find themselves in during inland flooding are very different to those they encounter during sea rescues. Regular training exercises are vital to ensure team members can work safely and effectively in the unfamiliar terrain and diverse, high-risk environment of flood-affected areas.
It's a pre-requisite that all team members are competent crew from stations around the UK and the RoI. They are then given additional training to become Floodwater Rescue Technicians and Flood Water Rescue Boat Operators.
This training covers such skills as:
• operating boats in fast flowing water in narrow spaces similar to the streets of a town
• performing rescues from weirs safely, using two boats
• technical rope work
• reconnaissance techniques
• how to deal with submerged hazards
• how to negotiate swift and rising flood water.
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