Despite being a landlocked county, Berkshire boasts an extensive network of waterways, lakes, and reservoirs. Berkshire Lowland Search and Rescue (BLSAR) possesses the capabilities to conduct water-based searches, thanks to our specialized water team and their cutting-edge equipment. Our water team comprises three distinct levels of water search technicians, each with unique expertise: Bank Search Technician, Water Rescue First Responder (WRFR), and Swift Water Rescue Technician (SRT). Complementing our skilled personnel are two dedicated Rescue Boats, a Rescue Sled, Side Scan Sonar, and an Underwater camera. This formidable combination equips us with the means to effectively and efficiently search these waterways, ensuring our readiness to respond to diverse search and rescue scenarios.

Berkshire Lowland Search and Rescue Boat

Water trials for our new boat

BLSAR Boat Helm

Water Team Helm

Safety is paramount when working in and around water, and at BLSAR, we adhere to the Department of Environment Fisheries & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) standards, which are universally recognized by all emergency services and rescue teams. These rigorous standards serve as the foundation of our training and operational protocols, ensuring the well-being of our Search Technicians, team members, and partners.

In strict compliance with DEFRA regulations, every Search Technician is equipped with essential safety gear, including life jackets and helmets, and carries throw lines. Additionally, our commitment to continuous improvement is exemplified through our strict adherence to Continuing Professional Development (CPD) requirements, guaranteeing that our team remains well-prepared to respond to any water-related incident.

Our Search Technicians receive comprehensive training to DEFRA MOD 1 standards in Water Awareness. This training equips them with the ability to recognize and comprehend the inherent risks associated with working in proximity to water. While MOD 1-certified members cannot directly respond to in-water incidents, they provide vital support to their colleagues.

Bank Search Technicians undergo specialized training to work safely near water, employing land-based techniques to assist MOD 2 & 3 technicians during searches. They utilize bank search poles to assess ground stability and provide support in and around water. These poles can also be employed to rescue individuals, and when a person is beyond arm's reach, throw lines with a reach of up to 20 meters are deployed to facilitate their rescue. Our commitment to adhering to these stringent safety standards underscores our dedication to preserving lives and ensuring the well-being of our team members.

BLSAR River Search Training

Water search team

Bank Search Technician Course

Bank search training

To qualify as a member of our esteemed Water Team, Search Technicians must undergo DEFRA MOD 2 training, at a minimum, to attain the status of a Water Rescue First Responder (WRFR). This qualification equips them with the essential skills to operate safely in aquatic environments, encompassing the ability to navigate water safely and, if necessary, execute self-recovery maneuvers. Given the inherent risks associated with water work, WRFRs are equipped with specialized gear, including dry suits, water boots, gloves, a Personal Floatation Device (PFD), helmets, and throwlines. You can readily identify our WRFRs by their distinctive yellow helmets.

Once WRFRs achieve this qualification, they can further specialize in various roles within the Water Team. For instance, we have several Search and Rescue Helms who are qualified to operate our two rescue boats. Additionally, our team includes technicians trained to operate our sonar equipment and underwater camera.

Experienced team members may choose to pursue advanced qualifications as Swiftwater Rescue Technicians (DEFRA MOD 3). SRTs possess the expertise to conduct rescues in swiftwater and flood situations, employing swimming techniques and technical rope work, such as the use of pulley systems. Earning this qualification necessitates completion of a comprehensive four-day practical course and continuous professional development (CPD) training.

However, the invaluable work of our Water Team wouldn't be possible without the dedicated support of our Support Team members. They play a pivotal role in maintaining our specialized water rescue vehicle, boats, and equipment, assist in decontamination procedures, and, crucially, ensure the welfare needs of our Water Team are met during deployments.

Aerial Support

In circumstances where it may not be safe to deploy our boats and crew, especially in locations near hazards such as weirs, our Drone Team steps in to provide essential aerial support. They conduct surveys and searches of these challenging areas, enabling us to make informed decisions regarding risk factors and the potential need to engage alternate services. This strategic use of drone technology enhances our operational effectiveness and safety.

BLSAR River Search Training

Drone survey of a Weir

Bank Search Technician Course

Drone close up of a Weir

Charities Aid Foundation

You can help...

Although all our members are volunteers, whom in turn meet their own fuel and equipment costs, we have many ongoing costs to equip house and run our operation. Including fuel for our vehicles, rent and replacement equipment and supplies, just to name a few. We receive NO statutory funding; we rely solely on charitable donations and fundraising. Please consider making a donation so that we may continue to save lives in Berkshire
Toutley Depot, Forest Road, Wokingham, 
Berkshire, RG40 5QP
Phone: 0300 321 0384
BLSAR is a member team of Lowland Rescue
BLSAR is a UK registered charity no. 1202260