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RNLI Flood Rescue Team

The RNLI Flood Rescue Team during a multi-agency flood rescue training exercise in Bala, Wales. Photo Credit: Robin Goodlad

After helping in the Mozambique floods of 2000, the RNLI formed its own Flood Rescue Team to respond to flood emergencies.


The RNLI Flood Rescue Team is always ready to carry out search and rescue operations wherever severe flooding puts lives at risk. The team is made up of volunteers from across the RNLI, including lifeboat crew and operational staff, all specially trained in swift water rescue.


When there’s a flooding emergency in the UK or Ireland, the Fire and Rescue Service’s Command and Control system coordinates the emergency response, which can include deploying the RNLI Flood Rescue Team.


Across the RNLI, flood rescue volunteers stand by, ready to assist the Fire and Rescue Service and other emergency services in the search and rescue operation.


Regional flood rescue teams are fully equipped to allow the team to operate self-sufficiently for up to 48 hours.

The flood rescue equipment for each team includes:

  • two adapted inshore lifeboats
  • two vehicles - a rescue van and a Land Rover for off-road driving
  • an operational base gazebo
  • electric generator
  • scene lighting and maintenance equipment
  • personal protection equipment
  • canyon line and technical rope kit
  • wading poles
  • torch
  • food and refreshments

Swift Water Rescue Training

The RNLI Flood Rescue Team during swift water rescue training. Photo: Robin Goodlad

Flood waters are just as unpredictable as the sea but present a very different set of dangers.


Flood rescue volunteers undergo extensive and regular swift water rescue training to ensure their safety in this unfamiliar, diverse and high-risk environment.


First, it's a pre-requisite that all RNLI Flood Rescue Team members are competent RNLI lifeboat crew or lifeguards.


Through their training they become Flood Water Rescue Technicians and Flood Water Rescue Boat Operators.


The swift water rescue training simulates the conditions they could face in flood waters and rivers and involves:

  • negotiating swift and rising flood water
  • operating a lifeboat in fast-flowing water
  • manoeuvring the lifeboat in narrow spaces similar to the streets of a town
  • dealing with submerged hazards
  • performing rescues from weirs safely, using two boats
  • defensive rescue swimming
  • wading in shallow, moving water
  • throwbag rescues
  • navigation
  • communications
  • technical rope work
  • reconnaissance techniques
  • mapping and survival skills

Regular training exercises allow the team to practice these specialist skills so that they are always ready for a flooding emergency.

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