Across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight we are never that far from a body of water.
From the Solent stretching between the Isle of Wight and the mainland, to the harbours surrounding Portsmouth and Hayling Island, and the Hamble, Itchen and Test rivers that make up our geography.
During National Fire Chiefs Council’s Be Water Aware week, Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service (HIWFRS) is urging people to stay safe around water.
Drowning remains one of the leading causes of accidental death – with 35 accidental drownings recorded in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight over the last fire years.
As part of the role of a modern-day firefighter, our teams are prepared to tackle incidents beyond fires, and on the water.
Spread across the four watches, 28 firefighters at Fareham Fire Station have been specially trained as Water Rescue Technicians and are a part of Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service’s swift water rescue capability.
Water rescue specialist and Watch Manager at Fareham, Matt Farr, has been involved in training firefighters across the organisation to perform water-based rescues:
“The technicians are trained to perform swim rescues, wading rescues, set up rope systems to effect rescues, paddle small craft, tether craft.
“We train to maintain competence in these techniques in flowing water using the River Avon in Fordingbridge, the River Stour in Dorset, and at the Cardiff International White Water Centre in Wales.
“Our initial training takes place in Snowdonia, North Wales, in challenging water to say the least.”
The Fareham firefighters are equipped with the Water Rescue Unit which carries a variety of associated equipment to allow for swift water rescues using boats, swimming and other rope/specialist techniques.
The Fareham team is a national resource for DEFRA, providing a water rescue crew able to deploy to national incidents during spate conditions such as wide area flooding.
Participating in courses and exercises alongside their police counterparts, our firefighters completed their Module Three water rescue training to qualify as water rescue technicians.
Across the organisation our operational personnel are trained to a Module One national water awareness standard, allowing them to work safely around water, with life jackets and throw lines carried on fire appliances.
At certain stations, crews have completed their Module Two training, becoming Water Rescue First Responders, and are supported through the HIWFRS fleet of Response Support Vehicles to enter the water and perform rescues of people and animals in water, mud, ice or other unstable ground, where it is necessary.
For tips on how to stay safe around water, go to: hantsfire.gov.uk/safety/leisure-and-lifestyle/on-and-around-water/
Find out more about our specialist water rescue response on our website – https://www.hantsfire.gov.uk/about/services-and-facilities/specialist-response/water-rescue/