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Keen to raise awareness of how we can all stay safe on the rivers, the Beaconsfield crew will join colleagues from Thames Valley Police and Buckinghamshire Council Community Safety Team on the banks of the Jubilee River, for the next two Water Safety Events planned this summer.

Stuart Grosse, Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service Group Commander and lead officer for water safety, said:

“Our specially trained water rescue crew will be out on our boat as much as possible over the coming weeks to help raise awareness of how to stay safe around the river.

“Sadly, in recent years we have experienced deaths in the water in Thames Valley. These tragic situations impact significantly on families and communities, but they also impact on those from the emergency services and partner agencies who are called to respond as life savers.

“It is our belief that no life should be lost to the water from avoidable situations, so we are working with our partners from across Thames Valley to engage with those who visit our waters. The aim of these three partnership events is to engage with the local community, and river users, and share with them how they can keep themselves and others safe around water.”

Timing:

These collaborative events are timed to align with the onset of post-exam free time for students and summer holidays. The Beaconsfield crew are aware that during times of good weather the number of young people venturing out to our local rivers increases.

The second of the three joint events planned for this summer will take place on the Jubilee River, (Lake End Road side) on Thursday 17 August (2023). The third is scheduled for Thursday 24 August (2023) on the Jubilee River, (Mill Lane side).

Group Commander Grosse added:

“Both events will run from 2pm to 5pm, please do come along to see our crew and talk to the teams for safety information and advice!”

Timely:

Being by the river has already proved to be useful for the Beaconsfield crew. On one afternoon in June, in the space of just 10 minutes, they learned of two potentially serious incidents happening to swimmers on the Thames.

Watch Commander Gavin Darvell, of Beaconsfield White Watch, explained:

“We’d gone to Spade Oak in Bourne End to do some water rescue training and give people advice on boats. When we arrived, we saw numerous school-age people in the water.

“They were obviously enjoying the warm weather, however it was concerning to us, as the area is not a designated open water swim area.

“Two boys approached us to ask what we were doing. We explained we were training, and then asked them what they were doing by the river. They explained they had been swimming in the river with a larger group of boys, when one of the pair got into trouble.”

Be #Waterwise:

Watch Commander Darvell continued:

“Luckily his friend was able to rescue him and calm him down. Once they had both reached dry land safely, we sat with them for a while to make sure they were ok, using the time to give them advice on float to live, the dangers of tombstoning, and the risks of being hit by boats while swimming from side to side on the Thames – all the advice shared by Tom Dean MBE, in our collaborative Be #WaterWise video.

“Shortly after that we met a couple who were mooring their boat and learned of a narrow escape that they had just experienced in Marlow, where a swimmer had swum across the river Infront of their boat.

“We are keen to get water safety messages out to anyone who plans to visit the river, but especially to those who have teenagers in their household, or know people who do!

“Please help us to help them Be #WaterWise this summer, and share our key messages to help people stay safe around our rivers, lakes and canals.”

Our key water safety messages:

From today, firefighters across Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service will begin wearing new breathing apparatus (BA) sets, the vital life-preserving equipment which is almost as iconic and recognisable as the fire engines themselves!

The roll out of the Interspiro sets form part of our ongoing commitment to ensure our crews have the best equipment, to enable them to provide the best response to our communities.

BA was worn by BFRS firefighters at more than 450 incidents in Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes (1 April 2022 to 31 March 2023) and is one of the key pieces of equipment used by firefighters when responding to emergency incidents.

The 156 new sets, made up of body-shaped shoulder straps, hip belt, backplate and oxygen cylinders are used alongside supporting equipment to ensure firefighters can breathe when tackling fires or entering hazardous environments.

The supporting equipment also rolled out today includes:

  • 400 personal issue facemasks made from the latest, technologically advanced chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear certified material.
  • 394 nine litre, 300 bar working pressure (WP), air cylinders of composite construction with a non-metallic liner, quick connect adapters and covers.
  • 37 telemetry enabled entry control boards (ECBs), with new covers and tripods which enable crews to monitor progress and welfare of those wearing BA.
  • 170 bluetooth communication system which enables those wearing BA to communicate clearly with each other, with a casualty at a scene, and with officers outside the incident wirelessly.

The contract with Interspiro is part of a wider Thames Valley Collaboration which aims to deliver full interoperability at incident grounds across Thames Valley.

Aylesbury Fire Station is looking to expand its firefighting team – and it’s keen to hear from you!

Did you know . . .

Aylesbury Fire Station is located in Stocklake. It is one of our shift crewed stations. This means it has four watches (Red, Green, White and Blue) whose members use the fire station as a base to provide full-time fire cover, 24/7 for Aylesbury and the surrounding villages.

Aylesbury also has an On-Call crew which can be called on to provide additional cover to Aylesbury, and its neighbouring areas, during incident response or when the day crew is busy.

What is an On-Call Firefighter?

On-Call Firefighters are professional firefighters and receive payment for the time they provide, responding to incidents, training and undertaking community safety activities, which include attending local events and helping people make their homes fire safe.

But unlike their shift colleagues, the Aylesbury On-Call crew usually respond from home or their primary employment on a call-by-call basis. They are local people who live, or work, in the Aylesbury area, and tend to have an enthusiasm for variety and action.

The On-Call crew are keen to help keep Aylesbury safe, either by using the skills and equipment they have been trained in to respond to emergency situations, by attending community events, or by sharing safety advice and tips with local groups.

If you’re interested, why not book onto our next On-Call Firefighter Awareness event. Taking place online on Wednesday 31 August 2022, you’ll be able to find out more about this firefighting role.

In the meantime . . .

Meet Gav:

Gav, 40, is one of your local Aylesbury On-Call Firefighters. He’s provided service to Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service for around 20 years and is someone you might have seen in the past delivering your mail. Up until 2019 he dual-rolled as an On-Call Firefighter and a local postal worker. His daily rural route saw him sorting and delivering letters on foot to the residents of Princes Risborough and the surrounding villages, Lacey Green, Speen and Saunderton.

The members of our specially trained water rescue crews are keen to share their water safety tips with you and will be taking the rescue boat on tour as they get out and about on the river this summer!

Jubilee River has already hosted two of our crews. Beaconsfield Blue Watch attended the Taplow stretch on Saturday 2 July, and Beaconsfield Green Watch joined colleagues from Slough Fire Station, on Sunday 3 July, at Chalvey Community Partnership’s canoeing and river safety event (pictured below).

Firefighters provided water safety advice to the public

Organised as part of its monthly Chalvey Activity Food and Fun (CAFF) club, the family fun day saw more than 70 people from the local community attend. Many stopped to say hello to our specially trained water rescue crew, view their rescue boat, and learnt how to stay safe in and around the water this summer.

Alex Mason, Beaconsfield Green Watch Commander, said: “All bodies of water like rivers, canals, and reservoirs have hidden risks, even to the most experienced swimmers. Younger people can often be tempted to take a dip in our rivers. However many are unaware of the potential dangers that the waters offer such as hidden currents or reeds beneath the surface which could pull you under.”

Safety first

Sharing safety messages with young people and their families before they get in the water is a key objective of the Beaconsfield crews.

Alex continued: “We were able to hand out plenty of age-appropriate information for the audience we were hoping to capture at this event and are looking to attend more, incident permitting, over the coming months.

“This event provided us with a great opportunity to work collaboratively across the fire service border. It’s kick-started what we hope will become more regular joint community safety work moving forward.”

Meet the team

The crews have further events planned on Jubilee River and the Thames throughout the summer.

Beaconsfield Station Commander, Stuart Grosse said: “Our aim this summer is to interact as much as possible with anyone who enjoys getting out and about on the rivers, or in open water, in our area.

“We are keen to help people see there are ways to enjoy our rivers, lakes, and canals safely and help them understand why it is so important to respect the water and be aware of the potential dangers it can hold.

“Sadly, there are occasions where people do get into water-related difficulties, so something else our specially trained water rescue crews are looking to share with local residents and businesses, as well as river visitors, is how best to deal with these situations if they do happen.”

The plan is for the Rescue Boat and its crews to attend riverside locations within our area over the coming weeks.

Please see dates and locations below.

More dates will be added over the Summer, so pop back from time to time to find out when they will be in your area – they’re keen to meet you!

What happens if someone gets taken ill when working at height? Well, it’s exactly the sort of unexpected situation our firefighters train for. If access is tricky, and special equipment is required, they are likely to be called out to assist our partner agencies and facilitate a safe rescue.

When it comes to precarious locations, the top of a crane is definitely up there – in this case 40 metres above ground! So when an offer is made for crews to practice their skills in a realistic environment, it’s an opportunity to good to be ignored!

Crew Commander Matt O’Sullivan from Beaconsfield White Watch shares his crew’s experience when they joined up with Amersham firefighters in Wooburn Green where construction company Stepnell have a tower crane in operation . . .

Training for the unexpected:

“It is always a treat for crews to get to train on structures in our local areas. Of course, most fire stations have drill towers on site which are designed and tested for this purpose, but from experience you just cannot beat getting out and practicing our skills on real-world structures every now and again.

It is all well and good training on a four-storey building with purpose-built anchor points, but what happens when you find yourself at the top of a 40-metre structure for the first time and must improvise a solid anchor point from what is available?

Of course, there is a lot of planning and paperwork to complete before such an event can take place, but it is well worth the effort to secure a good training session, and Stepnell’s crane operators were kind enough to work with us to allow this session to go ahead.

The aim of the day:

The purpose of the exercise was to familiarise two crews from Amersham and Beaconsfield with cranes, and for them to get to use the working at height equipment to perform a rescue from the top of the tower crane. Teamwork, a good plan, and excellent communication would be the keys to success.

Casualty lift:

The first crew used a 3:1 system to lift the casualty onto the jib.

The structure of the crane itself provided plenty of opportunities to create a good anchor point. The restricted room available made efficient use of the rescue hauler to get the job done more challenging than normal.

The rescue hauler must be pushed backwards and forwards to achieve the lift. If you can only push it half a metre along the line from your anchor, you are in for a long day! With a change of direction, using the length of the jib to their advantage, the crew set up a good system of work and were able to push the hauler at least three metres from their anchor point. This made the process of raising the casualty nice and efficient.

Once the first crew had raised the casualty safely onto the jib, they dismantled their working at height lifting system, re-stowed everything in the bag, and the two crews swapped over.

Casualty rescue:

The second crew now had a casualty on the jib ready for them to rescue. Once they had climbed up to the working area the crew went about setting up a safe lowering system using different anchor points from the first team. It was not long before our casualty, safely wrapped in a Chrysalis Stretcher, was being lowered back down to the ground.

Outcome:

The aims and objectives of this drill where both met.

The crews had a great familiarisation session on the crane and were able to successfully use our working at height equipment to raise and lower a casualty from the jib.

Thanks again to the Stepnell team for allowing us to have a good training session on their crane.”