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Dramatic rescues at water tower

27th September 2019

South West Water’s water tower at Broadclyst, near Exeter, was the scene of a dramatic rescue during a fire service training exercise.

The disused structure, which is 16 metres tall, was the perfect venue for the Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) crew from Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service to carry out Line Access and Casualty Extrication (LACE) from an unusual and challenging environment.

The first challenge for the crew was making access into the site. This entailed reversing up a very narrow lane with all their specialist equipment with very little room for error. Once the crews had established the task ahead of them, they gained access into the structure via a ground floor door and proceeded to make their way up a lengthy raking ladder.

The scenario was an unconscious casualty who was suspended in a harness within the tower and needed to be rescued. The tower was dark, restricted and very warm due to being closed up and in the summer sunshine. USAR successfully and safely lowered the casualty to the awaiting medics, without further injury or suffering to the   casualty.

In the second scenario, USAR simulated rescuing a casualty from height from the top of the structure. This involved the crews fixing their own anchor system, testing it extensively prior to use, using specialist loading equipment and gauges.

The crews then quickly got to work creating an external cableway using lines and lowering the casualty who was made medically stable, and then carefully packaged to prevent further trauma prior to the transit down the cableway to a place of safety. The cableway is a complex system that is built systematically by highly trained crew members who continuously train for these scenarios.

South West Water’s Network & Customer Service Manager, Jason Harvey, said: “Buildings of this nature are few and far between so we were delighted to be able to offer Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service the opportunity to use our site for this training exercise.

“This is a good example of how we work with our strategic partners, particularly in the context of emergency response.”

Watch Manager, Rory Devine from USAR, said: “We are extremely grateful to have access to this site. It has demonstrated again that collaborative working with all partners can, and will continue to bring benefits to all parties through these opportunities. We are always seeking out new training venues and as a service we continue to strive to make new connections, bringing the best outcome to those who we serve in their time of need.”

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service has completed training exercises at other South West Water sites, including during construction of an underground storm water storage tank in Torquay and at Mayflower Water Treatment Works, now nearing completion near Plymouth.

Broadclyst water tower was built in around 1944 to supply the village and surrounding hamlets. It was decommissioned in 1997 but there is still operational underground infrastructure on site. 

For further information please contact:

South West Water