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Multi-agency Exercise at Richmond

12th July 2013

On the evening of Wednesday 3rd July members of North Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service, North Yorkshire Police and Swaledale Mountain Rescue Team, carried out a multi-agency swift water rescue exercise on the river Swale in Richmond.

The exercise was designed to test a multi-agency response to a major rescue incident involving fast flowing water.

The scene was set with a report of a minibus carrying seven people which had left the road at Green Bridge, Bridge Street, Richmond and ended up in the River Swale.

The swift water rescue team from Richmond fire station was first on scene with CM Stephen Bake making a quick appraisal of the situation. He rapidly requested a further 4 further fire engines from Leyburn, Thirsk, Stokesley and Easingwold, along with the Swaledale Mountain Rescue Team from their base on Catterick Garrison and North Yorkshire Police attend.

As a safety measure fire crews were sent downstream to Mercury Bridge on Station Road. Once they were in place the Swaledale Mountain Rescue swift water rescue team launched from one bank and North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service did the same from the other bank. A rapid search identified three casualties, who were quickly rescued.

Whilst these rescues were being completed fire crews carried out a search from Mercury Bridge back towards the falls. They quickly identified a further three casualties, along with the final unharmed occupant of the minibus. Two of these casualties were particularly difficult to rescue as they were immediately below the falls.

The swift water rescue team from Richmond fire station and the Swaledale Mountain Rescue swift water rescue teams deployed and successfully rescued the casualties using specially rehearsed rescue techniques.rescuing a 'casualty'

North Yorkshire Police’s, on-scene Bronze Commander, Inspector Mark Gee and his team ensured that the scene was secured; the public were kept out of harms way, that information was gathered to aid the rescue operations and help the collision investigation.

The exercise was fully completed in around an hour, which considering the extent of the area that needed searching was an excellent achievement for all involved.

Station Manager Mick Sowden from North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said; “On behalf of all the agencies attending I would like to remind the public that open water is extremely inviting especially when the sun is shining, but if you want to cool off you should visit a local swimming pool or a beach with lifeguards.”

The main cause of accidental deaths in waterways is bathers being affected by some of the dangers listed below:

Alcohol and bathing
Alcohol causes loss of coordination and slows reaction times, as well as reducing the body’s core temperature and increasing the susceptibility to cold. Eating before bathing should also be avoided as it increases the risk of muscle cramps.

Temperature shock
Even during warm weather, temperatures in open waters are dangerously low. This can affect even strong swimmers, causing loss of strength and muscle coordination. Prolonged exposure to cold can cause hypothermia, inducing mental confusion and irrational behavior.

Waterborne diseases
Open water used by animals can carry diseases such as Leptospirosis (Weil’s disease), which has flu-like symptoms and can be fatal.

Submerged dangers
Murky or fast-flowing water can conceal hazards such as rocks or discarded rubbish. Jumping in can be deadly.

Underwater plants can wrap around bathers, leading to breathing difficulties and panic.

Water currents
Just 15cm of fast flowing water can knock an adult off their feet. Deeper water with fast currents is extremely hazardous.

Bathers are advised to: 

  • Only use venues designed for open-air bathing.
  • Pay attention to all warning signs.

 If you see someone in difficulty:

  • Shout for help and dial 999 and ask for the fire service at inland water sites or the Coast Guard if you're at the beach.
  • Reach with a long stick, a scarf, clothes or anything else. Crouch or lie down to avoid being pulled in.
  • Throw, A rope is best - you can then pull in the person. Otherwise throw something that will float - a ball, a plastic bottle or a lifebuoy.
  • Do not jump in to try to save them.

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