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AA Special Operations Response Team
If you're unlucky enough to get caught out in extreme weather like the floods in Cumbria or the severe snow and ice of recent winters, you want to know that there are specially trained and equipped experts who can come to your rescue.
The AA's Special Operations Response Team (AA SORT) was formed following the Gloucester and Tewkesbury floods of 2007 to supplement our main breakdown patrol force in times of severe weather. The team uses specially equipped and adapted Land Rovers - all named after fish - crewed by a professionally trained team to undertake vehicle rescue and recovery in floods and other severe weather.
Since the team was formed, AA SORT Land Rovers have been in action all over the country dealing with everything from muddy car parks at summer events to the extended snowy weather of the 2009/10 and 2010/11 winters and a full week of rescue operations in the Cumbria floods of 2009.
These specialist Land Rover teams work alongside our regular patrol force as well as local Police, Fire & Rescue services, the Highways Agency and others. Each vehicle is double-crewed by certified swiftwater rescue technicians, trained by the same people who train the RNLI and many fire service teams. Crews also undergo 4x4 driver training with RoSPA including off-road operations.
AA SORT Land Rovers carry a tow-pole and tow straps, power winches, special kinetic rope (like a large bungee cord, as used by the military) and decontamination kit (flood water can become contaminated with sewage once drain covers start to lift). Each crew member wears a dry suit, buoyancy aid and protective clothing.
Andrew English spends time 'on a shout' with the AA Special Operations Response Team for the spring edition of the AA Magazine.
AA SORT Land Rovers attend many festivals and summer shows through the year as many use temporary parking on grass that can quickly turn to mud if it rains.
If you're at one of these events and get into difficulty you can call our dedicated Festival line (0800 072 3642).
For more information on AA Special Operations you can contact Darron Burness on 07917 591605 or email AASORT@TheAA.com
The AA SORT team - nearly 90 in number - is made up almost exclusively of AA people with a normal ‘day’ job as well. Some are patrols and others work in office-based roles including breakdown call handling.
All are volunteers, willing to leave their van or desk – and often home and family too – at short notice when ever required.
Every member of the team has been trained to deal with a wide range of weather-related situations from floods and snow to muddy car parks at summer festivals.
Most are certified as Swiftwater Rescue Technicians giving them water rescue and search and rescue capabilities and enabling them to work as part of a co-ordinated multi-agency response - in 2012 they've worked alongside Mountain Rescue and regularly undertake multi agency training exercises.
In addition to the operational crews we now also have two qualified WFIMs, Water and Flood Incident Managers. They are responsible for managing The AA’s response to major flooding incidents and to provide a knowledgeable liaison as part of a local or national Incident Command Structure.
To help us meet the yearly training requirements for a Defra team type we also now have our own agency Swiftwater & flood Rescue Technician Instructor (SRTI) to provide continuation training to the team between their 3 yearly SRT recertification courses.
The position of AA SORT within the flood response arena moved on considerably during 2013. The team now has a seat on the All Wales Inland Water Rescue Group and the CFOA Water Rescue Group. Our place within these groups gives us a voice on behalf of the motorist in water rescue decision making at the highest level.
AA SORT took part in Exercise Berwyn – a major training exercise designed to test emergency flood response in Wales – in April 2013, alongside all of the emergency services and other responders including HM Coastguard, Natural Resources Wales, Gwynedd County Council , RAF Search and Rescue, Mountain Rescue and RNLI.
Hils Everitt from 4x4 Magazine goes out on winter operations in Kent with the AA's Iain Gillespie
Inside the custard yellow Land Rover Defender 110 all was reasonably warm and cosy, until our pilot Iain Gillespie wound his window down so that he could get some reasonable elbow room.
Read more »
Sam Jones writing for The Guardian spent some time with the AA's Special Operations Response Team in December 2010 as they battled the elements in snowy Kent. In tow with the ice road rescuers »
Land Rover World (Feb 2010)
The February 2010 issue of Land Rover World Magazine included an in-depth feature on the work of the AA SORT team in Cumbria during the floods of November 2009.
Download the extract from Land Rover World magazine (2.33MB pdf document reproduced with kind permission of Land Rover World Magazine)
The February 2010 issue of Emergency Services Times also featured the work of the AA SORT team in Cumbria.
Download the extract from Emergency Services Times (100Kb pdf document, reproduced with the kind permission of Emergency Services Times)
(updated 14 June 2013)