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RNLI Flood Rescue Team put through paces during Operation Polygon

Lifeboats News Release

Rescuing casualties from a car trapped in fast flowing flood water, evacuating people from the upstairs window of a flooded house and searching and recovering people missing in a bulging river.

These were just some of the rescue scenarios RNLI Flood Rescue Team members tackled as part of a major flood training exercise this week.

Exercise Polygon, held in South Wales on Tuesday and Wednesday (12 and 13 April), was one of the biggest exercise of its kind in Wales this year. Co-ordinated by South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, it brought together more than 250 people from 15 emergency services and rescue agencies including RNLI, Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, North Wales Fire and Rescue Service, Maritime & Coastguard Agency, SARA, RSPCA, police forces from South Wales, Dyfed Powys, North Wales and Gwent and the Welsh Ambulance Service, CAVRA and Rapid Relief Team.

The exercise recreated a major flooding event where a period of heavy rainfall had seen flood water engulf a large number of homes around Cardiff. Emergency services received numerous 999 calls from persons trapped in buildings, rivers and vehicles across south Wales, testing emergency services resilience and teamwork in the face of a major incident.

Specially trained RNLI Flood Rescue Team volunteers from across the UK and ROI worked with partner agencies on a number of mocked-up scenarios, including a search and rescue operation in Cardiff Bay, a mud rescue in Newport and evacuations of a flooded home and a submerged car in at the Cardiff International White Water Centre.

Robin Goodlad, RNLI Operations Manager for Flood Rescue, said:

‘Exercise Polygon was a fantastic opportunity for the RNLI’s Flood Rescue Team and other agencies to come together to improve our multi-agency response to a major flooding incident.

‘We worked with partners from fellow emergency services and rescue agencies on a range of training scenarios to develop skills and teamwork so that we can all work together during major flooding incidents.
‘Our Flood Rescue Team is made up of volunteers who receive the highest standard of specialist flood training and this exercise was a vital part of that.’

In December the RNLI’s Flood Rescue Team was tasked to Cumbria during the major flooding there and, working in partnership with other emergency services, evacuated at least 360 people from flooded homes during their three-day deployment.

Robin added:

‘Unfortunately the only other time we get to work together with a variety of other agencies like this is during real flooding incidents like our recent tasking to Cumbria, so these kind of exercises are crucial for our teams.

‘But they are also a good time for members of the public to reflect on how they would act in a flood situation. Our advice is for people to always respect the water – it can catch you out as it’s easy to underestimate its power – and to never enter flood water but rather call 999 and ask for help if they or someone they see are in difficulty.’

The RNLI and the the Royal Life Saving Society also led water safety sessions with children from local schools, who got to look at some of the Exercise Polygon rescue scenarios at the Cardiff International White Water Centre and learn about how to stay safe in and around open water. 

Also during the exercise the RNLI’s Youth Education Manager Anthony Jones and Andrea Roberts, from the Royal Life Saving Society, carried out a  joint education workshop for pupils From Grangetown and Cogan primary schools in Cardiff.

Around 100 pupils who live around the Cardiff bay area undertook an interactive education session on the dangers of inland waters, cold water shock, tomb stoning and other hazards, as well as what to do in an emergency.

The pupils also had the opportunity to practice how they would deal with a land based inland water rescue with pupils simulating rescues with throw lines and flotation aids and how to deal with a casualty in shock.

Anthony said: 'During the session the pupils really hung on our every word and really engaged with the whole session. Many of the pupils outlined the risk taking behaviour they have been involved in or witnessed around inland waters, which really shows the value of this type of education work.

'The session went extremely well and after the lessons finished they pupils spent some time outside observing some of the exercise Polygon scenarios taking place.

'The teachers all thanked us for our efforts and highlighted the great value this would have for the pupils in helping them keep safe in the future.'

The RNLI Flood Rescue Team is supported by Toolstation.

Notes to editors:

The attached pictures show:

- Team members Phil Davies, RNLI Lifeguard Manager West Wales, and Marc Gibbons, from Barry Dock RNLI, rescue trapped casualties from a submerged car (Credit Callum Robinson)

- RNLI Flood Rescue Team members Stan Macrae, from Kessock RNLI, and Francis Burns, from Lough Swilly RNLI, getting ready to evacuate a flooded house during one of the scenarios (credit RNLI)

- The RNLI Flood Rescue Team using two boats to evacuate a flooded house (credit RNLI)

The RNLI Flood Rescue team (FRT) is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to deploy to flooding events in the UK, Ireland and abroad to perform search and rescue. It comprises of a team of specially-trained volunteers called to respond to emergency rescue situations where lives are considered to be in danger.

Any deployment is the result of a request by a local authority to the Fire and Rescue Service National Co-Ordination Centre (FRSNCC). The FRSNCC are responsible for calling on and co-ordinating additional support like the RNLI’s Flood Team to boost local rescue teams during a major flooding incident. This will involve several different agencies working alongside each other. Our Operations Director is in regular contact with the FRNSCC Duty Manager regarding the current situation.

For more information please contact Chris Cousens, RNLI Press Officer, Wales and West, on 01745 585162 or 07748 265496 or by email on chris_cousens@rnli.org.uk.

Key facts about the RNLI

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution is the charity that saves lives at sea. Our volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service in the United Kingdom and Ireland from 238 lifeboat stations, including four along the River Thames and inland lifeboat stations at Loch Ness, Lough Derg, Enniskillen and Lough Ree. Additionally the RNLI has more than 1,000 lifeguards on over 240 beaches around the UK and operates a specialist flood rescue team, which can respond anywhere across the UK and Ireland when inland flooding puts lives at risk.

The RNLI relies on public donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. As a charity it is separate from, but works alongside, government-controlled and funded coastguard services. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824 our lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved at least 140,000 lives. Volunteers make up 95% of the charity, including 4,600 volunteer lifeboat crew members and 3,000 volunteer shore crew. Additionally, tens of thousands of other dedicated volunteers raise funds and awareness, give safety advice, and help in our museums, shops and offices.

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The RNLI is a charity registered in England and Wales (209603) and Scotland (SC037736). Charity number 20003326 in the Republic of Ireland