Welsh RNLI volunteers carry out flood rescue exercise in USA
Welsh volunteers from the RNLI are currently in North Carolina, USA, as part of the charity’s International Flood Rescue Team training alongside globally-recognised emergency response teams in a major flood rescue exercise.
The team, which includes RNLI volunteers from Aberystwyth, Aberdyfi and Porthcawl as well as St Asaph based RNLI members of staff, arrived in Charlotte on Sunday, September 29. The exercise will test the RNLI’s deployment process and logistics, equipment and working overseas. All of those attending the exercise are doing so in their own time.
Since arriving at the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC), near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the team have undertaken a series of boat rescue exercises in the river’s rapids, which are popular with whitewater rafters, canoeists and kayakers. Night search operations were also undertaken in the dense forestland of the Nantahala National Park.
On Wednesday, the team carried out winching exercises with two Black Hawk helicopters from NCHART (North Carolina Helo Aquatic Rescue Team) at Lake James, near Nebo. The idea behind the exercise is to give flood team members an appreciation for what it is like for a casualty - from the extreme rotor wash, to being winched and being in a helicopter. Later, wide area search patterns were practised by the teams on the water of Lake James.
Robin Goodlad, Flood Response Manager at the RNLI, said: "The opportunity to train alongside these globally-respected organisations who have had experience at numerous major flood events will be of huge benefit to the RNLI.
"Similarly, we will bring our 190 years of water rescue expertise to share with our US counterparts.
"Our friends at US Airways have been incredibly generous in providing us with flights at a very low cost, which, as a charity with a responsibility to spend our generous donors’ money wisely, means we’re able to take advantage of this fantastic offer to draw on the experiences of our counterparts in the United States."
RNLI Flood Rescue Team (FRT) members are all either serving volunteer lifeboat crew members or operational RNLI staff who volunteer to be a part of the team.
Importantly, Charlotte Fire Department and North Carolina Emergency Department are hosting the exercise, meaning the RNLI need only fund its own travel, fuel and food – the cost of which would be the same to carry out the exercise in Scotland.
The exercise comes as parts of the US see widespread flooding following tropical storms and Hurricane Ingrid. More than 2,000 tourists have been evacuated by helicopter after landslides blocked roads.
In 2012, three members of the RNLI's Flood Rescue Team were honoured with bronze medals for gallantry - the first RNLI medals awarded to a rescue in flood conditions - following the rescue of a woman clinging to a tree in flood waters in Devon.
The RNLI’s International Flood Rescue Team (iFRT) was formed in 2000 following the Mozambique floods of the same year where some 10,000 people were aided. The team is available to be tasked to any incident of inland flooding anywhere in the world within 24 hours.
Keep up to date with the trip with photos and videos posted on the RNLI’s Twitter feed, @RNLI, during the exercise.