Friday, 4 May 2012

Joint, multi-agency rescue operation

On Wednesday 2nd May at 17.51pm, East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service received an emergency call from two young boys who were stuck on rocks, with the tide coming in. The children were asking what they should do.

They had been playing on the beach between Bexhill and Hastings and had been caught out by the tide coming in around them.

Chris McDonnell, Firefighter Control, Mobilising and Communication Centre, took the emergency call and began a dialogue with the children, calming them down and reassuring them, whilst trying to establish exactly where they were. In the meantime, his colleagues from the Mobilising and Communication Centre contacted Dover Coastguard.

A fire engine from Bexhill was mobilised to the area, in order to locate the children and establish a clearer picture of their location and what action was needed.

Chris continued to talk to the children, calming them down and reassuring them, all the time trying to pin point their location.

The fire engine from Bexhill arrived in the area with the blue lights on. The children could see the blue lights in the distance and Chris began the challenging task of ascertaining from the children, the direction in which the fire appliance needed to travel in order to reach them.

Meanwhile, staff from the Mobilising and Control Centre were directing the fire engine and passing information to the Coastguard.

Firefighters located the children but were unable to reach them due to their proximity, which was approximately 30 meters out to sea. It was confirmed the children were standing on a rock, with the tide coming in.

Back in the Mobilising and Communication Centre, Chris asked the children whether the rock they were standing on was covered in seaweed and barnacles. Unbeknown to the children, he was trying to establish whether the rock was going to be submerged in high tide. The children responded with a yes.

Prior to making the emergency call, one of the children had fallen into the water. He had managed to get out successfully, but he was extremely cold. It was essential that the children were rescued quickly.

The Mobilising and Communication Centre received a call from Dover Coastguard to say the  Hastings lifeboat had been launched. Chris reassured the children that help was imminently arriving. He advised them to hug each other and try to keep warm and asked the children to look out to sea towards the left and tell him when they could see a boat.

Very quickly, the children told Chris that a boat was coming. He continued to reassure them and keep them calm as one of the children had a phobia about boats and was really frightened!

Once the lifeboat had arrived, Chris asked the children to carefully pass the phone to a lifeboat crew member. Meanwhile, the children were being helped by other crew members with their life jackets.

Once Chris had confirmed with the lifeboat crew member that the children were safely in their care, the call was ended.

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