Drowning Prevention Week

Sadly over 400 people will drown this year.

Drowning Prevention Week aims to educate people on water safety and highlights the dangers that can be fatal.

The most surprising fact is most of them had no intention of going in the water.

Drowning is the third highest cause of death in children and shockingly nine out of ten parents don’t know basic first aid. This highlights the importance of personal survival and simple rescue techniques.

All BSAR members are trained in basic water awareness. Within BSAR, specialist teams are given critical resources to save a life in the water. Specially trained team members carry essential PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and life saving equipment when searching in, and around, water. These include life jackets, buoyancy aids, dry suits, throw lines, reach poles & sticks.

Safety is the number one priority and we are very mindful of the risks when searching near or around water. To manage these risks, we adhere to the three zones of operation: Cold, Warm and Hot. Only trained and qualified Search Technicians can enter the Warm and Hot zones. Counter intuitively, the Cold zone is the furthest from the water!

BSAR has teams specially trained in flood response, bank searching and we have our own dedicated boat team.


What is the Difference Between Drowning and Aquatic Distress?

Drowning is not what you think it looks like. The violent, splashing call for help that most people expect is not what real drowning usually appears like. A person thrashing about and yelling is experiencing Aquatic Distress, they can still assist in their own rescue.

It’s the quiet person you should be worried about.

Signs you should look out for include:

  • Head low in the water, mouth at water level
  • Eyes glassy or closed
  • Hyperventilating or gasping
  • Appear to be climbing an invisible ladder or legs vertical
  • Hair over the eyes or face

What do you do if you see someone in the water?

One of the main causes of drowning is Cold Water Shock. The body’s responses to cold-water immersion can be divided into three phases: 1) initial immersion and the cold-shock response (0-3mins) 2) short-term immersion and loss of performance (3-30mins) 3) long-term immersion and the onset of hypothermia (30mins +).


Do you need help?

Can you swim to the edge?

Can you stand up?

Get their attention and break their panic. Ask them if they need help, if they can swim to a shallow area or a barrier. They may be panicking and not realise the water is shallow enough to stand up.

Reach: Use a stick or a pole. Improvise with anything around you, brace yourself for a possible major force pulling you towards the water when contact with the casualty is made.

Throw: Find a lifering, public rescue aid or anything that floats. BSAR are trained to use throw lines and they are essential to us in water rescue.

What do you do if you find yourself in distress?

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RBLI) created the #FloatToLive campaign.

The shock of experiencing distress in the water triggers the instinct to gasp uncontrollably for breath, thrash about and try to swim which allows more water to enter the airway, increases the strain on the heart and can quickly lead to drowning. That is why is it important to stay calm, keep your head up and lean back in the water. Fight the instinct to swim or thrash around, only when you are floating and controlling your breathing can you call for help.

Find out more:



Dementia Action Week

BSAR CALLOUT: Missing person with Dementia

Who is available?

In the UK 1 in 3 people will develop Dementia.

When we receive a call out for a missing person we can never know what expect.

In most cases all we know initially is that the police have deemed the person vulnerable and high risk and require our search and rescue skills to help locate them. When we arrive at a search the information available regarding their age, illness and circumstance surrounding their disappearance is a vital tool to help us plan our search and act accordingly.

Dementia is one of the five groups of missing people that we search for. When we search for someone with Dementia we have a wealth of knowledge including statistics and past searches to utilise, however no two persons with Dementia are the same.

Dementia is a cruel disease that affects the brain, usually in elderly patients, leading to memory loss, change in mood and judgement, lack of understanding, movement and general difficulties in life.

From a Search and Rescue point of view, looking for someone with Dementia can prove to be very challenging due to their thought process, how they respond to obstacles and their confused state of mind. Those with Dementia experience tunnel vision, often moving straight ahead until there is a physical barrier or they are unable to carry on. If they do turn they are more likely to follow their dominant side e.g turning right if they are right handed. Many are unaware they are lost and won’t realise they are in danger. This puts them at a higher risk, as being more senior in years, they are more susceptible to slips/trips, hypothermia and infection so its very important for the team to identify these factors when out searching. Statistics like these are vital to help us search effectively. Our motivation and drive to find a missing person comes from the knowledge that there is a loved one waiting for a father, mother, grandparent or partner to return home safely and we will do everything we can to ensure a happy conclusion.

Why do people with Dementia go missing?

Six in ten patients with Dementia will wander. It can happen at any stage of the disease and there are many reasons including memory loss, confusion, stress, boredom or following past routines. Certain strategies can prevent wandering; providing supervision, identifying likely times of day that wandering might occur, carrying out daily activities and distractions. Reassurance can help the person when they are feeling confused and disoriented. If someone does go missing ask friends/family and neighbours to call if they see the person and call 999.

Why is Dementia Action Week so important?

This week encourages people to start to understand about the effects of Dementia both for those who directly suffer and those around them such close family members and how it impacts all of their lives. This week also asks people to start to a conversation with someone who has Dementia and The Alzheimer’s Society Website has got tips and advice on how to get the conversation started.

Visit the Alzheimer’s Society Website or call the National Dementia Helpline on 0300 222 1122 for more advice and information.

Bucks Search and Rescue telephone number: 0300 321 3216

Busy Start to the Year!

It’s been a busy start to the year for us here at BSAR!

Over the past 9 weeks our volunteers have deployed to assist Thames Valley Police in searching for high risk missing people 13 times as part of 8 separate incidents. One of these incidents is still ongoing.

We also deployed our 4×4 crews to assist Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust during the heavy snowfall in January.

Whilst all of this has been happening we have continued to train weekly and our committee has been busy doing all of the behind the scenes work that goes in to running a successful charity.
We have to raise around £20,000 per year just to cover our running costs and receive no government funding whatsoever.

If you would like to donate to BSAR or know of a company that would help us by hosting one of our collection tins please get in touch using contact form on the Contact page or make a donation by clicking on the red button on the left hand side of this page.

On the Water

During the Christmas break, the water team took the opportunity to gather members for some boat handling practice. It is important to keep competent with skills that aren’t put to use each and every week.
The thermometer read only 2 degrees. Visibility was almost as close to zero as the temperature and yet six team members donned their PPE and prepared for a day on the water.

Any water is potentially dangerous, these two conditions add to the complexity but ultimately excitement too. BSAR is lucky to have enthusiastic and experienced water team leads meaning we were able to practice through play pushing skills to the limit.

In fact it was great to learn how the boat responds if you get something slightly wrong. Lifting off the throttle when surfing down the crest of the wake converted our RIB into a submersible, something you would never want to happen near a rescue or safety situation. In a controlled environment with a skilled helmsman it brought both smiles and looks of panic across the faces of everyone.

This training couldn’t have as easily have been done without the support of Datchet sailing club. It was great to practice on a reservoir where buoys can be used to practice against with little chance of entanglement or bashing against other obstacles.

Radio Upgrade

In September our radio system had an upgrade. All the Lowland Recue teams in the Thames Valley Police area now have an enhanced ability to communicate with each other on our own digital, encrypted, secure network.

As well as mobile repeaters (transmitters) in our Incident Control Vehicles, there are static repeaters on telecoms masts across Bucks and the Thames Valley policing region that allow us to communicate and coordinate search and other emergency activity between the team members, team operations control and between teams, maximising the organisational and operational coverage across the region.

Pictured are the ICVs of Midshires, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Search and Rescue teams.

Navigation Training

Recently several new team members had their navigation skills assessed around the hills and woods of Buckinghamshire. Navingation is an essential part of a search and all team members are required to be competent navigatiors. We are currently training the team up to National Navigational Award Scheme (NNAS) Silver level.


Team Callouts

We are on standby 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, ready to aid the Police in the search for missing people in Buckinghamshire, and also further afield.

In the last few weeks, the team has searched for missing people in Bucks itself, Oxfordshire, assisting Oxfordshire Search & Rescue, Berkshire, assisting Berkshire Lowland Search & Rescue, Hertfordshire, assisting Midshires Search and Rescue and, as part of a national Lowland Rescue callout, assisting with a major police search in the Hitchin area along with many other teams from across the country.


Boat Team Training

Even when training, the team are fully equipped with PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) to ensure that the training environment is as realistic as possible and that the team are used to operating both the boat and the essential equipment to keep themselves safe.