The number of emergency rescue teams in England and Wales equipped to tackle flooding has more than quadrupled.
Some £2.5m has been spent funding teams, mostly within the Fire Service, until 2017.
The Fire Service is now being described as a “rescue service that occasionally goes to a fire”.
Roy Harold, the chief fire officer association’s capability lead for flood rescue, says the number of water rescue teams have risen from 40 to 180 and include paramedics, the RNLI, the RSPCA, and the AA.
“In the last floods in 2007 my own county, in Norfolk, had no Fire Service teams able to turn out and assist in a flood,” he said.
“At the beginning of December we had 19 teams available including a dive unit, specialist flood rescue teams … We’ve gone through an absolute transformation in what we can do and how we can help.”
The government is also spending more money on tackling the risk of flooding than ever before.
A spokesperson from DEFRA said: “We’re currently spending over £2.3bn on tackling the risk of flooding. Together with contributions from other partners, this is more money than ever before.”
“We have secured a historic six-year settlement on capital spending for flood defences. From 2015 we’re spending £370m on building new flood defences, rising to over £400m in 2021.”
At a water rescue course in North Wales run by the West Midlands Fire Service, officers are being trained how to help people stuck in swollen rivers.
Chris Darnley from West Midlands Fire Service says the experience is invaluable.
“Most of our training uses breathing apparatus and stuff and you can press a button and it stops there, fans come on, and it gets rid of the smoke. Here you’re at the mercy of the river if something happens,” he said.
Meanwhile, a warning is being sent out this winter to the public regarding cold water and flooding hazards.
Terry Robinson, water rescue instructor for the West Midlands Fire Service, says people need to be vigilant.
“Any river is going to be dangerous, when they’re swollen there are so many more features that come into play, just normal trees and stuff … are suddenly out of the water and become a far greater hazard.”
“As people are walking their dogs, the paths become submerged that they would normally walk on and there would not usually be there, they think they would be safe in ankle deep water but they’re not.”Tags: fire service, team, trained, uk, water rescue