2000: The RNLI Flood Rescue Team officially forms

After helping in the Mozambique floods of 2000, the RNLI formed its own Flood Rescue Team to respond to emergencies in the UK, Ireland and beyond.
The RNLI Flood Rescue Team during a multi-agency flood rescue training exercise in Bala, Wales

Photo: Robin Goodlad

The RNLI Flood Rescue Team during a multi-agency flood rescue training exercise in Bala, Wales 

In the first year of the new millennium, prompted by our search and rescue work during disastrous floods in Mozambique, RNLI volunteers officially created the Flood Rescue Team.

During February and March of 2000, a team of eight RNLI volunteers equipped with six D class inflatable lifeboats had been deployed to Mozambique to help with search and rescue.

This group would go on to help provide humanitarian aid to some 10,000 people during a disaster that resulted in the displacement of around 463,000.

Again in 2005, the RNLI deployed six boats and a team of 20 volunteers to Guyana, where heavy rain and flooding affected 250,000 people.

This unique and highly trained group of lifesavers now provides 24/7 search and rescue in flooded environments in the UK, Ireland and beyond.

Members of the RNLI Flood Rescue Team practice wading in swift water during training

Photo: Robin Goodlad

Members of the RNLI Flood Rescue Team practice wading in swift water during training

Flood rescue past and present

RNLI response to inland floods dates back as far back as the 1930s. For example, in January 1937, after 12 days of gales and rain, lifeboat volunteers sprang into action when the River Dee flooded, causing widespread damage. Lifeboat crew members were also involved in major international flood relief efforts in Bangladesh in 1970.

Currently, the RNLI Flood Rescue Team comprises lifeboat crew members from all over the UK and Ireland, who have been specially trained for the risks involved when working in or around dangerous, fast-moving flood water.

These 250 volunteers make up six divisional teams strategically positioned to respond to a flood anywhere in the UK or Ireland within 6 hours. Fifty of these team members form the international Flood Rescue Team, which can deploy anywhere in the world within 24 hours.

Each team has two boats, a rescue van and a Land Rover, as well as all the ancillary equipment needed to allow the team to operate self-sufficiently for up to 48 hours.

This kit includes an operational base gazebo, electric generators, food, refreshments, scene lighting and maintenance equipment. Many of the RNLI flood rescue volunteers have specific skills as doctors, paramedics, linguists or mechanics, and the international team have all the necessary vaccinations to enable them to travel at a moment's notice.

Since its inception, the official RNLI Flood Rescue Team has formed a core part of the response to flooding emergencies across the UK.

And in 2013, Flood Rescue Team members were presented with RNLI gallantry awards - the first for flood rescue - for their part in a dramatic rescue of a woman trapped in floodwaters in Umberleigh, Devon in December 2012.

Read more about this rescue and where we have helped in our flood rescue pages.

RNLI Flood Rescue Team members

Photo: Robin Goodlad

RNLI Flood Rescue Team members who were awarded a Bronze Medal for Gallantry for rescuing a woman trapped in floods in Umberleigh, Devon, in 2012.