High Sheriff joins in water rescue training

Shropshire's High Sheriff Anna Turner saw how firefighters carry out water rescues - when she was rescued from the waters of a fast flowing river in Snowdonia National Park.

The dignitary swapped her formal dress for a drysuit to take part in the training event on water rescue techniques for new recruits from Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service. Earlier this year the plucky High Sheriff was cut free from the driver's seat of a wrecked car in another firefighter training session held in Telford.

Mrs Turner, a north Shropshire magistrate, said she was protected from the fast flowing waters by three firefighters who practiced their rescue techniques in shallow water.

The 51-year-old also learned defensive swimming techniques as she flowed down the 10 metre wide river in North Wales. She also practiced how to use throw lines from the river bank to rescue victims.

After the 90 minute training session, the High Sheriff said: "I wasn't scared because they are very professional and so well trained. But I have to admit I hadn't realised how tiring it was in the water which was surprisingly fast flowing. I thought I was quite physically fit but it was very tiring indeed. The water was fast and furious.

"I was as dry as a bone in the suit although I did get my hair wet. It was an honour to see at first hand how hard they work to train to be ready to rescue victims of flooding and carry out other water rescues," said Mrs Turner.

"It is nice to know that we have such professional, well trained people to rescue us."

Mrs Turner, who has a blog on her website about her activities as Shropshire's High Sheriff, said she wanted to draw attention to the county's well trained and professional emergency services.

Fire crews from Shropshire along with instructors from the Training and Development Centre in Telford were at the national white water rafting centre near Bala – home to Rescue 3 UK, which assists Shropshire instructors to train fire crews.

Deputy Training Manager Neil Griffiths said the fast flowing river was an ideal training venue as it replicated exactly what firefighters could be faced with on operational duties.

"The High Sherriff really got involved with all the rescue training and she assisted by allowing firefighters to rescue her to practice their training techniques. It is invaluable training so that we are ready for the real thing when called upon."

Firefighters in land-locked Shropshire are called to many water incidents during River Severn floods in Shrewsbury, Telford, Ironbridge, Much Wenlock and Bridgnorth. They are also called to Ellesmere lakes, Melverley brook, near Oswestry, and other rivers and lakes throughout the county.

The Bala traingin session today (Friday, Nov 6th) was for the latest batch of five wholetime recruits from Shropshire, Staffordshire and Warwickshire and supports a four year programme run by Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service to train all crews. A total of 500 firefighters – both wholetime and retained – are being put through the courses run by the brigade’s training school in Telford which also has Royal Yacht Association training centre status to allow the brigade to train crews to operate the Rescue Boats which are located at Shrewsbury Fire Station.

Other practical sessions are also held in rivers and lakes in Wales at Llangollen, Bala, and the Menai Straits before trainees return to Shropshire for the more "in depth" training in the fast flowing River Severn in Shrewsbury, Telford and Bridgnorth.

Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service is called on in national emergencies with their firefighter incident response team and their boat which was sent to assist at floods on the east coast and in Devon last year.

6th November, 2009