Water rescue team in training


Between March 13 and 15, Officers from the team braved the weather and spent three days training at Low Force in the Tees Valley near Middleton in Teesdale, County Durham.


During one of the coldest spring months on record, our dedicated water rescue team were hard at work keeping their vital skills up to date.

Although our toes have certainly thawed following the recent heatwave, the story was slightly different in spring in County Durham.

Dealing with flood-stricken animals

With around 65 trained officers equipped to deal with flood-stricken animals across the country, we actively work as part of Defra’s National Flood Response, helping to rescue stranded animals, often in compromising situations. We work nationally and have previously aided some of the largest major floods in the UK, including, Storm Desmond in 2015.

In addition to our team of hard-working Officers, we also maintain a fleet of 35 inflatable boats, sea boats and portable roll away boats to help aid animal rescue. The team are in charge of delivering vital supplies such as food and water to stranded herds of horses and cattle when needed.

Ensuring our inspectors can keep animals safe

Water rescue team members undergo an initial week-long swift water technician course with a refresher every year and a recertification every three years.

Chief Inspector Ben Strangwood, our deputy national coordinator for water rescue, explains:

The team are learning skills that they will use all year round in their rescues - whether that’s helping sheep stranded in rivers or injured waterbirds in lakes. I was very proud of the whole team and the way they undertook the training. Everything we do comes down to our ultimate aim to help look after and rescue injured or stricken animals.

We caught up with Ben to hear how the latest training went...

So, what is involved in a typical training day?

We practise all vital skills necessary for a successful job. This includes working on swimming techniquesrescue and self-rescue from the water, as well as essential rope work. We practise various exercises and carry out mock rescues across a range of potential situations.

Did you encounter any particular challenges during the three days training?


Following the recent snowfall, water levels were much higher and more powerful than normal due to the melt-water. Of course, the temperature was very low too, all making the training much more challenging!

We began training midday Tuesday and finished mid-Thursday. Wednesday was the longest day as we included some night time training as well. Of course, this brought about its own challenges, such as reduced visibility and ever lower temperatures!

What skills does it take to succeed during training and in real life situations?

As well as being physically fit (an essential requirement due to the nature of the job) it’s important to be confident in this type of environment. It’s also essential that you can work as part of a team. We really love working as part of a team, and it’s very important to the success of our work.

How many trained team members do you need for a job?


It depends on the nature of the rescue and the level of risk involved. We usually have a team of between four and six for a flood situation. For day to day jobs, such as aiding a bird stranded out on a lake, sometimes a team of two is safe.

To report an animal in need contact us today.

What do you most enjoy about the training?

The teamwork! Also, the opportunity to do something a bit different to our usual day to day work.

Do you want to be on the frontline in the prevention of animal cruelty - why not find out how you can become an inspector?


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