Joint working agreement for water-related incidents

Charlotte Parker, Chair of BLSAR, and Andy Fry, Chief Fire Officer at RBFRS, signed the Memorandum of Understanding.

Charlotte Parker, Chair of BLSAR, and Andy Fry, Chief Fire Officer at RBFRS, signed the Memorandum of Understanding.

As part of a new agreement, Berkshire Lowland Search and Rescue (BLSAR) volunteers will assist Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service (RBFRS) by providing support at water-related incidents when requested to do so.

The agreement was formalised by the signing of a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ on 18 November.

BLSAR is a charitable organisation made up entirely of specially trained volunteers who already support Thames Valley Police by providing assistance in searching for vulnerable missing people. Its teams are trained to nationally recognised standards, enabling them to work safely in proximity to water courses.

On the request of RBFRS, BLSAR volunteers can be mobilised to incidents to support the fire crews. For example, if someone is suspected to have fallen into the river, the volunteers could search along the riverbanks while the RBFRS crews search the river itself, meaning that an extended area can be covered in much shorter time.

Similarly, in an extreme flooding situation, as experienced in Berkshire in 2014, BLSAR volunteers could support firefighters by helping to support vulnerable people who may need rescuing from their homes or be provided with welfare support.

The agreement will also enable joint training opportunities to be undertaken by the two organisations.

Chief Fire Officer Andy Fry said, “I am delighted that we have now formalised our partnership with Berkshire Lowland Search and Rescue. This new agreement means that we can enhance our response to water-related incidents when necessary, with highly trained volunteers who are already very familiar with Berkshire’s waterways.

“In addition, because BLSAR volunteers are based locally, it also means that we can do this more quickly than before, rather than seeking the assistance of colleagues from other fire and rescue services who may have some distance to travel. This new agreement will enable us to provide an even better response to water-related incidents in future.”

Charlotte Parker, Chair of BLSAR, said, “The Memorandum of Understanding brings together the water search and rescue skills of both organisations and is an opportunity for RBFRS and BLSAR to work together and provide a highly professional response to our communities during times of need.

“BLSAR volunteers are trained to a national standard to search for vulnerable missing people. This is a service offered 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Water search is part of our skill set and this will be developed further with joint deployment and training, which will enable both teams to work together and work professionally at water search and rescue incidents. I am very proud to be signing the Memorandum of Understanding on behalf of BLSAR today.”