The team carried out a full water search and rescue exercise on Wednesday night.
The exercise started with a “callout” message to meet at the picnic area above the Horseshoe Falls weir on the River Dee, north west of Llangollen.
The team was briefed that two people had failed to return from a canoeing trip. For the purposes of the exercise the initial search area was very short, just a couple of hundred metres of bankside to search, so we could fit in all the learning and practice for the night.
The first parties were quickly equipped with Buoyancy Aids, Helmets and Rescue Throw Lines, before setting off to start the search of the river banks. In the winter time the bankside searchers would also wear drysuits as accidentally falling into very cold water, even with a buoyancy aid and helmet, could be very dangerous. It is important that the bankside searchers are properly equipped and trained in case they fall in while searching close to the edge.
The first canoe was quickly spotted but it appeared to be empty, with no sign of a casualty. A request was passed to get the swift water rescue team to search in the water around the empty canoe. These team members have additional training and are equipped to search and rescue in fast moving water.
The bankside searchers moved on and soon found a second empty canoe on an island in the river in an inaccessible location. However it was soon apparent that there was a “casualty” next to this canoe lying partly in the water. The exercise manager then upped the tempo by telling the searchers that the “casualty” (in reality a dummy) was moving an arm and responding to shouts across the river. Again the bankside group called for the swiftwater rescue team to urgently attend.
They arrived with our rescue raft and water rope rescue equipment. A casualty carer was then sent across the river to initially assess the situation, followed shortly by other team members with our rescue raft and comprehensive first aid equipment.
The “casualty” was quickly attended to and then carried back to the other side of the river on our raft, before being evacuated to the road head where we would have handed over to the ambulance service in a real incident.
The swift water team then went back to search around were the first canoe was found. Sadly this “casualty” (another dummy of course) was completely under the water and this part of the exercise simulated how we deal with the recovery of a deceased person from fast flowing water.
We then met back at the control van for a thorough debrief of the exercise to allow us to note any learning points to inform future training and actual rescue procedures.
A great training exercise, showing yet again how NEWSAR is “not just about mountains”.
All the water equipment and training is expensive to buy and maintain and we welcome donations – just click on the “donate now” button on the right.
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The original pictures from the exercise can be found on our Flickr page