Share information with other agencies: People at risk – Water

Control Measure Knowledge

Several agencies can assist with single and multiple incidents involving people at risk from water. These agencies can assist with:

  • Water search and rescue
  • Submerged person rescue
  • Body recovery
  • Casualties requiring medical attention in the water

Water search and rescue

The police are responsible for co-ordinating search and rescue on land and inland waters and have a responsibility to plan, organise and manage a missing persons search, including calling off a search. While the police will co-ordinate the overall search operations, it is recognised that some functions will be supported by partner agencies with specific water rescue expertise, including flood rescue tactical advisers and water and flood incident managers.

The MCA, through HM Coastguard (HMCG), is responsible for co-ordinating search and rescue at sea, but will also respond to rescues on the coastline, within tidal waters and in certain delegated inland waters by local agreement.

HMCG and the police can call on various water search and rescue assets, for example lifeboats from the RNLI, cave rescue, mountain rescue and lowland search and rescue. Although these assets are usually requested via the police, some fire and rescue services may have local mobilising arrangements in place.

Air assets such as drones (classified as a type of unmanned aircraft by the Civil Aviation Authority) can be provided by many agencies, including the Environment Agency, which has a 24-hour drone response capability.

Fixed-wing assets can also support more traditional air assets, such as helicopters from the National Police Air Service and MCA search and rescue service.

Further information can be found in:

Submerged person rescue

Fire and rescue services should try to identify dive teams that can provide an underwater search and rescue capability for incidents involving submerged people. If available, they should be mobilised to incidents where a fire and rescue service intervention is not possible. This may be due to the depth or position of a person, or a situation that may result in personnel being exposed to an underwater rescue situation.

Body recovery

The police are responsible for body recovery and should be requested if not already in attendance. Fire and rescue services may be involved depending on local arrangements.

Medical assistance

There may be occasions where casualties require medical attention while they are in water. Hazardous Area Response Teams (HARTs) and Special Operations Rescue Teams (SORTs) have skills and equipment that enable them to access, stabilise and treat casualties in the water environment. The decision to mobilise HARTs and SORTs will normally be the responsibility of ambulance control personnel. To allow the correct mobilisation to take place, it is important that sufficient information relating to the location and condition of the casualty is passed to ambulance control personnel.

National flood rescue assets

The Department for Environment, Fishing and Rural Affairs (Defra) Flood Rescue Concept of Operations (FRCO) sets out the processes for managing and maintaining flood rescue capability and the national co-ordination of flood rescue assets in England, however it has been adopted nationally.

Defra’s Flood Rescue National Asset Register holds a list of teams or assets that voluntarily join the register and maintain availability for national deployment. These assets include teams from the fire and rescue service, lowland rescue, mountain rescue, the police, the RNLI, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) and many other organisations. The management of the Defra Flood Rescue National Asset Register is contracted to the NFCC and is managed by the National Resilience Fire Control (NRFC).

Fire and rescue services should update the availability of their own flood rescue assets and request national flood rescue assets in the same manner as other national assets. When making a request for a national asset, the M/ETHANE structure for sharing information should be used. Where possible, the following information should also be shared with the NRFC:

  • Prevailing weather and, if known, water conditions
  • The requirement for urban search and rescue (USAR) teams; they may be able to construct landing platforms
  • An estimate of mutual aid resources required (as detailed in the FRCO); this may be flood rescue team types and flood rescue tactical advisers

Emergency planning groups should hold a list of local flood rescue assets. To enable local and national assets to work alongside each other during an incident, it is recommended that local assets also meet the Defra team typing standards as detailed in the Defra Flood Rescue Concept of Operations (FRCO). During a multi-agency response to a flooding incident, emergency planning groups should use local assets identified in their Multi-Agency Flood Plan (MAFP) before they access assets on the National Asset Register.

Strategic Actions

Tactical Actions