New pole-based river rescue system to be trialled in Bedford

A  new water rescue device could save more lives on Britain's riverbanks after being chosen for a special pilot project by the fire service.
A new water rescue device could save more lives on Britain's riverbanks after being chosen for a special pilot project by the fire service.

Water rescue teams in Bedfordshire are the first in the country to use a new pole-based method of saving lives.

The pole, called Reach and Rescue, is contained in a lockable box and stands the water’s edge similar to the traditional lifebuoy. But unlike the lifebuoy, it is secure and tamper proof.

A  new water rescue device could save more lives on Britain's riverbanks after being chosen for a special pilot project by the fire service.

A new water rescue device could save more lives on Britain's riverbanks after being chosen for a special pilot project by the fire service.

Jo Taylor, from Reach and Rescue, said: “We work with many different rescue organisations and our poles are already widely used in lifeboats, marinas and ports across the world. Until now they have only been used by rescue workers but they are so easy to use and effective that they could accessed by the public, just like a lifebuoy.”

“However, by talking to fire and rescue workers we have found that there is a real problem with lifebuoys being stolen or vandalised. So we have created something much more secure.”

The pole extends to 17 metres and comes with a range of attachments for a host of rescue scenarios.

It can reach someone in distress in the water in as little as 20 seconds. And it is said to be so easy to use that members of the public will be able to begin the rescue while the emergency services are on the way.

The lockable box will carry a number for members of the public to call to allow access to the Reach and Rescue pole. The same call could also be used to raise the alarm to the emergency services.

“In a rescue situation every second is vital,” said Jo. “The real beauty of the system’s rigid design is that you can direct and control the rescue rather than expecting someone who is in the water, cold, confused and terrified to swim towards a ring.”

Reach and Rescue has a host of different applications including animal rescue and safety when working in high places. It also has a camera attachment to allow it to be used in search operations in hard to reach places or underwater.

It is now used in 33 countries by a variety of rescue agencies and has been proven to save lives.

Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service will be the first brigade in the country to use the Portsafe system on the banks of the river.

Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service community safety officer David Lynch, said: “Our key message is that people should not put themselves in danger by entering the water to attempt a rescue. The Reach and Rescue poles will allow people who see someone in trouble in the water to help them while keeping safe themselves.

“To get the pole they’ll need to call the Fire Service on 999 for a code to unlock it, which means we’ll also be on our way to assist. We are continually looking for ways to keep people safe by the water and the Reach and Rescue pole will be a welcome piece of life saving equipment to have alongside Bedfordshire’s open water.”