Swift Water is defined as ‘that moving fast enough to produce sufficient force to present a life and safety hazard to a person entering it’. Operations in ‘swift water’ are referred to as ‘SRT*’ tasks and include life-saving rescue. However, due to the time-sensitive nature of water incidents these are often search and if necessary recovery operations. Their initiation is often by a combination of Police, FRS or Coastguard.
Dependent on the water concerned, a small boat may be deployed, or a floating platform, in addition to crew directly in shallow water. SARA has the ability to launch such small boats in almost all rivers, with no requirement for slipway or road access to the riverbank. Such small boats are referred to as ‘Rescue’ boats; SARA prefers rigid rescue boats to reduce the risk of punctures from the use of inflatables.
SARA Swift Water crew are qualified as ‘Swift Water and Flood Rescue Technicians’, which is the national standard. The Swift Water Teams are also able to deploy on flood rescue operations nationally, as ‘Type B’ (ie volunteer) Flood Response Teams. DEFRA, through the National DEFRA Flood Rescue group, coordinate the ‘Type B’ Flood Response Team deployments nationally. SARA has 2 declared teams of 7, shared between its 4 Stations, which need to be ready for deployment anywhere in the country. SARA has a proven track record of deploying around the UK on such incidents including Essex (2014), Devon (2014) and Yorkshire (2015/16).
*In SARA, the term ‘SRT’ refers to the disciplines described above. This is distinct from ‘Single Rope Technique’, as used in caving for example.