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3rd August 2023

What happens in a water rescue?

Water rescue teams are typically made up of volunteers, who dedicate their time and energy to helping others. They respond to water related emergencies and perform search operations. We spoke to our local Mountain Rescue team, specialist water division, to find out more about their role.

We want to give an enormous thanks to the team at Holme Valley Mountain Rescue. For talking with us, and their hard work and commitment to the community. Continue reading to find out what a water rescue scenario is like.


What kind of kit do you bring to an emergency?

The team have their own personal PPE they must bring, consisting of dry suits, boots, rescue-graded flotation devices, helmets, gloves, whistle and a throw line.

On top of their personal items, they have their kit and equipment bags. Include things such as a sled/boat, a paddle, and knives for cutting tree roots. In the vehicles, there will be mountain rescue equipment, such as an oxygen tank and a stretcher.

Mountain rescue attend a site with a minimum of 3 vehicles. Each of these vehicles has a primary care bag and a trauma kit bag. They keep a stretcher, medical and communication equipment too. Being well prepared is key for the safety of everyone involved in a rescue.


How do you as a team prepare for a rescue?

In the case of a missing person being reported near water, typically this is reported to the fire service & police via a 999 call. These teams will search around the water for the person, if they fail to locate the person, the rescue team are then called out.

The rescue team is made up of volunteers, most of whom have full time jobs, and may even be at work when they receive a call. So some of the team keep their dry suits and other PPE in their cars.


When do you change into your rescue clothing?

As the team are volunteers, and may be at work or home when they are called, the team will get dressed at the site. One volunteer told us they typically change into their base layers at home, putting their dry suit, jacket and other PPE into the vehicle.

On arrival, they quickly put on the rest of their equipment, pick up their kit bag and meet the rest of the team.


How does a rescue operation begin?

Once the team are together, the necessary information is gathered to decide where to start. The team search the waters edge first, then in the water. If they find someone, they try to extract them as quickly as possible. As mountain rescue are not the first point of call for an emergency, a lot of their work involves searching for people.

To ensure the safety of the team, risk assessments are performed prior to starting the operation. Getting in the water is only done where necessary. Buddy checks are carried out with another member of the team. This ensures all the straps are fastened tightly, and all equipment is correctly attached.

Feeling comfortable is vital to a rescue, and all team members should agree and be happy with the proposed plan.


What happens next?

The team have set processes to follow, so that everyone in the team know what to do in the emergency situation. They explained their hierarchy of rescue, which is as follows:

  1. Talk or shout out to the individual, they may be able to rescue themselves with some guidance.
  2. Reach with a pole or branch for the casualty to hold on to, and be pulled in.
  3. Use the “throw line” and throw in a spare personal floatation device for the casualty to hold on to.
  4. If available, use a helicopter to reach the casualty from the water.
  5. Finally, go into the water as a team and rescue the casualty using the sled.

If the first option is not possible, the team will then move through the list until they are able to rescue the casualty from the water. Depending on the specific circumstances.


Water rescue

Each rescue operation is circumstance specific, the nature of the rescue, the location and more elements combine to influence how the water rescue team will work. We spoke with our local team, Holme Valley Mountain Rescue. Made up of selfless volunteers who are passionate about helping their community.

You can find more information about the team here.

Categories: Interesting info

Tags: hypothermia, hypothermia prevention, mountain rescue, rescue, water rescue

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