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rope rescue

Specialist Rescue Teams

Our four Specialist Rescue Teams are based in Plymouth, Barnstaple, Bridgwater, and Exeter.

We train our teams to conduct rescues from a variety of environments such as:

  • fast-flowing and deep water
  • widespread flooding
  • high places (eg cliffs, cranes and buildings)
  • confined spaces (eg mine shafts and sewers)

Our specialist teams will support frontline firefighters when they are working in these environments and will carry out any rescues requiring their specialist skills. We also have specialist large animal rescue teams for incidents involving trapped horses or cattle. All our operational firefighters receive a basic level of training in these skills. That means they can operate safely in the water, at height, or in a confined space.

Water and flood rescue

In recent years we have seen an increase in the number of flooding and water incidents we attend. Each specialist rescue team has water rescue equipment and they have a thorough training programme to qualify them to make rescues from deep and fast-flowing water.

Their role ranges from conducting rescues from rivers and flooded towns, to rescues from mud, sand and ice. Their equipment includes;

  • dry suits
  • buoyancy aids
  • special floating ropes
  • inflatable walkways
  • inflatable boats

Their training builds on the training already received as firefighters. They receive a one week course followed by a period of personal development. The teams then train monthly and have to re-qualify every three years to maintain their specialist skills.

Rope and confined space rescue

Changes to legislation and working practices over the last ten years have changed the way we work at height and in confined spaces. All our operational firefighters receive training and equipment which allows them to work safely in these environments. Special Rescue Team members undertake a further seven-day course and period of development. This means they can also undertake rescues from high places and confined spaces using complex rope techniques and specialist equipment. Their role includes carrying out rescues from:

  • cliffs
  • quarries
  • cranes
  • bridges
  • scaffolding
  • mine shafts
  • culverts
  • grain silos and;
  • anywhere else that requires rope to deal with difficult access.

Large animal rescue

The National Fire Chiefs Council issued guidance on how to conduct rescues of large animals such as horses and cattle. The new techniques are more efficient and more comfortable for the animals than those traditionally used. We've been quick to take on the guidance and have trained and equipped the Special Rescue Teams to carry out this role.

This specialist capability also means we have a team of Specialist Rescue Advisors who give advice in all aspects of specialist rescue either at an incident or from an off-scene command centre. Our four teams are listed on the national flood rescue assets register and we have four specialist rescue vehicles and powered rescue boats.


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