For the last ten years Bay Search and Rescue a volunteer team and charity based in Flookburgh, have been working away very quietly, but very hard, solving some of the problems faced by Rescuers when trying to safely navigate the unpredictable sands of Morecambe Bay. And then once navigated how to best extract those unfortunate men, women, children, animals and vehicles trapped by the notorious sands, before the next tide!
These logistic and technical rescue abilities are unique to the Flookburgh team, who over the last few years have made a great effort to share them with the rest of the rescue world, and soon are to be published in ‘Technical Rescue’, an Internationally respected and renowned rescue services magazine.
The range of dedicated rescue vehicles the team has available includes a Hagglund ATERV (All Terrain Emergency Rescue Vehicle) personnel carrier/ambulance and a Hagglund ATERV cargo carrier with crane. These tracked vehicles originally designed for military use in the Arctic are capable of travelling safely over almost any terrain and have full amphibious capabilities. The team are also in the final stages of building what they believe is the UK’s first Search and Rescue airboat. Similar to those now used by the US Coastguard to great effect in the evacuation of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, these craft can travel safely in any depth of water (or even no water at all!), but with no moving parts underwater are ideally suited for flood relief and the shallow channels of the Bay.
Joint training exercises undertaken with Cumbria Fire & Rescue proved to be of such a revelation to the local Fire crews that the question was asked if Bay Search and Rescue could assist them with other quicksand rescue requirements and also many other types of incidents further inland. Suggestions proposed included: Moorland and forest fires; to safely transport fire crews and heavy equipment to the scene. Animal rescue: a recent success extracting a horse from quicksand at Silverdale proved this point. Flood rescue; transporting crews, welfare into flood areas and recovering people back out safely (and warm and dry!). Recovery of crashed vehicles, aeroplanes etc from difficult to access areas. And of course any operations involving snow or blocked roads and gaining access to stranded vehicles and cut off homes.
After proving the teams capabilities to Cumbria Fire & Rescue Senior Officers and a subsequent visit from the Cumbria Chief Fire Officer Dominic Harrison to the station at Flookburgh, a Memorandum or Understanding has been drawn up and is to be officially signed on Thursday 22nd October in the presence of MP Tim Farron, Councillors Iain Stewart and Pru Jupe. This will result in Bay Search and Rescue becoming an on-call Technical Rescue and Support unit for the whole of Cumbria, who can be called on by local Crews who have the need of such specialist vehicles, equipment and skills.
Station officer and long standing Chairman Gary Parsons said
“After many years of providing our life saving service on the coast in just in our local area, we have realized that we can offer so much further inland. We will never neglect our primary duty to the safety of those unwitting few, who are unlucky enough to fall foul of the sands of the Bay. But we are not alone in our quest to make our part of the country as safe as possible, and no one team or agency alone ever has all the right solutions and answers”.
“Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service are the professionals we all rely on for so many different things, and fulfil many different roles in the search and rescue environment. From fires and floods to people trapped in cars, to derailed trains and quicksand rescue to mention but a few”
“The signing of this Memorandum of understanding between our two organisations, is a common sense step in the right direction for the future, making good use of our unique vehicles and skills available to this county, and to the wellbeing of those who live and visit here”
“This is a very proud moment for me and the team, and for us goes someway towards recognition for all that we have achieved in the past"