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Enhanced Water Rescue Response in the East of Berkshire

Firefighters at Slough Fire Station are now providing a specialist water rescue response, improving the speed of response to more challenging water-related incidents in the area.

Following four tragic accidental drownings in Berkshire’s waterways in 2022, Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service advanced plans to provide a specialist water rescue capability in the East of the County, to complement the existing water rescue capability provided from Caversham Road Fire Station in Reading. In 2022, RBFRS attended 46 water-related incidents across Berkshire (including those involving person, vehicle and animal rescue) with the Slough Weir within the Jubilee River an identified risk. The Jubilee River was designed as a flood relief channel and not as a place for recreational swimming. 

An extensive review as part of our Community Risk Management Planning identified that Slough Fire Station would be the preferred location to operate the new capability from. Crews at Slough were then provided with over 50 hours of intensive training to qualify as Module 3 Swift Water Rescue Technicians (SWTs).

A dedicated water rescue vehicle and associated equipment has been allocated to the Station to enable firefighters to respond to water rescue incidents.

A Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service van

The addition of the necessary training and equipment has been made possible by investment from Royal Berkshire Fire Authority.

While this work was undertaken, during July, members of Berkshire Lowland Search and Rescue provided Water Rescue support to our Service at weekends, in addition to the Water Rescue Team based at Caversham Road and provided additional support to strengthen our water rescue resilience across Berkshire.

In the summer months, there is historically a heightened risk of water-related incidents owing to the hot weather, particularly during weekends, and members of BLSAR’s water team were co-located at Slough Fire Station ready to respond immediately to any calls.

Councillor Jeff Brooks, Chair of Royal Berkshire Fire Authority, said: “We identified an opportunity to upskill our teams to increase our water rescue capabilities in the East of Berkshire.

“Providing an enhanced water rescue capability from Slough provides additional reassurance to our communities that we can provide a swift and effective response to water-related incidents. It also builds upon all our prevention activity this year, working with partner organisations and schools in particular to promote water safety.

“Thank you to our partners from Berkshire Lowland Search and Rescue for their support. This positive working partnership has provided us with layers of resilience at what tends to be a busy time of year for water rescue.”

Chris Curry, Emergency Planning Officer for Berkshire Lowland Search and Rescue, said: “As an established partner agency, we are proud to have provided water search and rescue support to RBFRS for several years. We were pleased to have been able to compliment the water rescue team based at Caversham Road whilst training and resources were being put in place in Slough, thus providing additional support to strengthen the overall water rescue resilience across Berkshire.”

Berkshire Lowland Search and Rescue van and a fire engine