The Bay Search and Rescue team constantly work on developing and refining the skills and training needed to operate in the unique Morecambe Bay and South Lake District environment. Where there are recognised training and qualifications available we make every effort to make use of them.
PPE – Personal Protective Equipment
Personal safety is vital at all times if we are to be able to operate effectively and professionally. All team members are issued with and trained in the use of appropriate PPE for the operation undertaken. This includes: drysuits for working in water, breathable waterproof clothing for foul weather conditions, hi-visability overalls and jackets for general work, fleece underlayers, safety boots for work on sands, neoprene gloves, PFDs (Personal Flotation devices) commonly called buoyancy aids fitted with quick release harnesses and rescue knives for river and shoreline work, gas inflation life jackets for offshore and deep water use, personal first aid kits, safety helmets, torches and head torches, standard and long distance throwlines, handheld GPS, handheld VHF radios and thermal imaging and night vision equipment.
Rescue of people, animals and vehicles that have become stuck in the quicksands of Morecambe Bay is what the Team was founded for and is what we have many years experience of. Over these years we have had to develop our own techniques and tools for this simply because there is no one that can offer training, as no one else really has the problem of quicksands on their doorstep as we do. This constant research and development has resulted in the range of vehicles, tools, facilities and skills we now have available to us. Regular training exercises are undertaken to ensure the team maintain this standard. We also train Cumbria Fire and Rescue teams in the use of our techniques and equipment
As we work near (and in some cases in) water all team members are required to have completed a ‘Working in Water – Safety Awareness’ Course. All the team members have undertaken specialist water rescue training and are qualified to ‘Swift Water Rescue’ level 1 or 2, with a good majority also qualified to ‘Technician’ level 3. The majority of the team members are qualified to ‘RYA PowerBoat handling Level 2’ or above. We also have team members qualified to ‘RYA Coastal Skipper’ level. In addition we now have team members to Water Rescue Power Boat Operator Level (DEFRA Module 4) and Water Incident Management (DEFRA Module 5). As everyone is aware there has been an increase in flooding over the last few years so we took on extra training and development of our techniques and the use of our Hagglund amphibious rescue vehicles with an aim to be able to assist in flood operations. These were then used and proven in the devastating Cockermouth floods of November 2009 where we worked in partnership with Cumbria Fire & Rescue Service. We currently have 1 Type C Team declared with DEFRA National Flood Enhancement Program, We are aiming for this to become a Type B team next year.
We are often called out to assist in searches of the shoreline around the Bay. Our vehicles allow quick deployment of team members familiar with the local area as well as members of other emergency services. We undertake regular ‘patrols’ of the shoreline which as well as providing driver training help us monitor the changing geopgraphical conditions. We sometimes assist the Morecambe Bay Partnership with Beach cleans, providing a safety backup service for its members, and safe recovery of heavy objects washed up on the shore – such as those from the container ship that ran aground at Blackpool in 2008.
Snow & Ice
As our Hagglund rescue vehicles were originally designed for use in the frozen north by the Swedish military they are ideal for deployment when snow causes transport issues in our area. In recent years we have assisted local Ambulance and First Responder services by providing vehicles and trained crew to allow them to access areas cut off by snow and impossible to get to any other way. Where even Landrovers cannot operate in deep snow and ice conditions we can utilise the Hagglunds and with a capacity for 18 people we can evacuate more people with less trips. We also train specifically for ice rescue, which in some cases is not dissimilar to quicksand rescue in equipment, PPE and techniques used.
The majority of the team undertake training to be able to drive our Hagglund articulated tracked amphibious rescue vehicles on the road, ultimately passing their Category H driving test, and also in extreme terrain environments. All drivers are required to log their hours and encouraged to undertake training to senior driver level. Team drivers also receive specific training in 4×4 driving for our backup vehicle and a number of the team are qualified HGV drivers and can drive our 12 ton Mercedes Transporter which we use to deploy the Hagglunds away from our immediate area. All team members are trained in ‘banksman duties’, ‘vehicle safety’ and recovery techniques using highlift jacks, winches and tow ropes.
Our primary role is to safely evacuate any casualties as quickly as possible into the care of the Ambulance Service at the nearest accessible point available. However we are sometimes called on to provide initial medical assistance and have professional medical skills in the team. We train for the specific types of injuries we have found over the years that we are likely to expect in our operating areas and work with Amputees in Action to ensure the we have the most realistic scenarios to work with. Alongside this all team members are required to have up to date recognised First Aid qualifications.
The team is predominantly responsible to, and needs to be in contact at all times with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (what used be known as HM Coastguard) and operates Marine VHF licensed frequency radios. All team members operating radios are required to hold a ‘VHF certificate’ qualifying them in their use. These also have the facility for a private comms channel which we use for team communication.