Special operations team to the rescue

AA taskforce assists emergency services

AA SORT assists a flood-stricken motorist

The AA is investing even more in trying to help keep its members – and the wider public – as safe and as dry as possible, especially in light of recent flooding.

Last week, our Special Operations Response Team (AA SORT) and their flood-busting Land Rovers supported emergency services in West Berkshire, helping to reassure flood-hit residents, recover vehicles affected by water, and monitor flood and groundwater levels.

Ian Hemstock, Water Incident Manager and SORT crew man, explains: “Thanks to our specialist training, and our all-terrain Land Rovers, the AA SORT team can reach the parts that other motoring organisations can’t.

“Crew members are certified as Swiftwater Rescue Technicians and train to DEFRA standards, which enables multi-agency work with the fire service and other flood responders. This gives us access to flood-hit areas that are closed to the public and other breakdown providers.”

Ian Hemstock

Ian Hemstock

The AA SORT team is listed as a national asset with the Fire and Rescue Service National Control Centre. At short notice, the team can respond anywhere in Great Britain, providing a crew of seven – including a team leader and a qualified medic – as well as an inflatable, paddle-driven boat and the all-important Land Rovers, complete with CCTV kit.

The team is set up to be self-sufficient for the first day of deployment, and is able to deploy for at least four days at a time.

On 13 February, the Royal Berkshire Fire & Rescue Service called on the AA to provide a boat team and two Land Rovers. Their challenge? To assist throughout Berkshire, reassuring residents, recovering cars, and even keeping the fire and rescue vehicles on the road.

Darron Burness – SORT Operations Manager and Water Incident Manager – was holed up in the control room at Silver Command liaising with his crew on the ground.

Ian explains: “Our vehicles relayed live footage to the control room where Darron worked with key decision makers from the fire and police services, the military, the local authority and the Environment Agency. Our feed gave them an invaluable guide to the ever-changing situation on the ground.”

Once the boat team completed four days of support, it was down to Ian to take over in the control room, liaising with a single-crewed CCTV Land Rover on the ground for a further five days.

Ian adds: “It’s great being able to support the emergency services in times like these, and really make a difference in these challenging circumstances.”

Keep up to speed with the AA SORT team on our emergency blog, and on Twitter @AASORT.

27 February 2014