Flood boat removed from service days before major flooding

Flooding

Flooding in Lowestoft on the night of the storm surge in December 2013. - Credit: Mick Howes

A flood boat was removed from service in Suffolk just days before extensive flooding hit the Waveney area.

The boat was used during the 2013 floods in Lowestoft but was taken out of service by senior management at Suffolk Fire and Rescue on Thursday, December 17, just days before major flooding across the east.

It was the only craft in Suffolk Fire and Rescue capable of taking a portable firefighting pump on the waterways which can be used on board the vessel to deal with any potential house-boat or cruiser fires in areas.

The service has said the move did not affect the number of water rescue teams across the county.

Flooding in 2013 in London Road South, Lowestoft. Picture: Nick Butcher.

Flooding in 2013 in London Road South, Lowestoft. Picture: Nick Butcher. - Credit: Nick Butcher

Phil Johnson, brigade chairman for Fire Brigades Union Suffolk, said: "The decision for the removal of the Flood Boat came out of the 2019/2022 Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP) where the proposal to 'review' the water rescue response within Suffolk was included for public consultation.

"The view of the Fire Brigades Union in Suffolk is that any decisions taken from that 'review' should be taken back to the public to inform them of the potential changes and allow for further responses to be made.


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"There were no indications in the IRMP document to suggest that the operational response to water rescue incidents within Suffolk would be reduced.

"And there is no plan to further inform the public of any reductions being made."

Flooding in 2013 in London Road South, Lowestoft. Picture: Nick Butcher.

Flooding in 2013 in London Road South, Lowestoft. Picture: Nick Butcher. - Credit: Nick Butcher

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Mr Johnson added: "Suffolk Fire and Rescue will still be left with inflatable rib boats in Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds and Lowestoft, but these do not have the same capabilities as the rigid flood boat."

Dave Collins, acting deputy chief fire officer at the Suffolk service, said: “As part of the most recent IRMP, [fire service] staff and the public were asked if they thought that the service should review its specialist rescue capabilities, including water rescue. The majority of respondents agreed that we should, in particular, our training and equipment used."

He said the service had maintained the same number of water rescue teams across the county and has standardised equipment in line with national arrangements.

“The review has also led to further investment and improvements for fire crews and the public including the addition of the latest rescue equipment for road traffic collisions, working at height and the rescue of large animals," he said.

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