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Thursday, 22 February 2018 11:02

River Dart casualty recovery training

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River Dart casualty recovery training

Every week, Dartmoor Search and Rescue Ashburton volunteers train to make sure they are fully prepared for any incident that they are called to by the full-time emergency services. The team doesn't just rescue walkers, climbers and the vulnerable on land, they also have a water rescue capability to respond to swift water incidents involving water sport enthusiasts, flooding events and searches for vulnerable missing persons that may involve watercourses.

Dartmoor Rescue Ashburton swift water rescue specialists preparing for a water rescue exercise

Of course, the team are on-call 24/7 so need to undertake training at night as well as during the day to reflect the incidents they are called to.  Hence last night's team training session focussed on communication and manoeuvring of a specialist rescue sled in the recovery of casualties stranded in the water in the dark.

Session organiser and team member Dave Underhill highlighted the need for water rescue training at night.  "Working in water at night has its challenges when trying to effect a water rescue. Apart from the obvious reduction in visibility, effective communication becomes harder with the background noise of the water and difficulty in visual signals being seen."

"We train frequently in the water during the day to make sure our volunteers have the confidence and skills necessary to not just search and rescue effectively, but also look after themselves and their teammates around water courses, and keep themselves safe. The evening water-based sessions put all that training into practice and get them used to working in a very challenging environment."

Apart from the assessed water 'Mod2' training which the majority of the team volunteers are qualified too, the team also has a specialist water team consisting of a group of Swiftwater Rescue Technicians (SRTs). The SRTs undertake additional assessed specialised training courses that enable them to undertake more advanced water rescues using equipment such as a 'rescue sled'.

Dartmoor Rescue Ashburton water rescue specialists training on the River Dart with their rescue sled

Dave continues "This training event on the River Dart was designed to get our Swift Water Technicians as well as Mod2 qualified members working together effectively in rigging and positioning our rescue sled and recovering casualties. Its teamwork such as this which is very important and could make the difference in being able to save a life of someone in need of our services. "


The charity is called out around 35 - 40 times a year by the Police, Ambulance and Fire Service not just on Dartmoor but across South and East Devon and further field on occasions. Its most recent callout at Longdown just outside Exeter did involve its water rescue specialists who found a body in the search for a missing University of Exeter student. Although the team were unable to save a life on that occasion, it's reassuring to know that a group of volunteers will respond any time of day or night to the aid of those in-need, and help bring closure for a family at such a difficult time.

You can donate to the team to help them with their specialist training and equipment costs via their website at


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Charity Number: 1106098.