Behind the scenes with a team of lifesaving volunteers
PUBLISHED: 15:29 03 November 2019 | UPDATED: 11:06 04 November 2019
Norfolk Lowland Search and Rescue helps the police look for missing people 365 days a year and rescues people from flooding.
Reporter DAVID BALE joined volunteers at a training session in the River Bure at Horstead Mill...
It takes a certain type of person to get up early on a Sunday morning and learn life-saving skills in the cold water for several hours.
But these are the people called on to help if someone has gone missing, needs rescuing from a flooded house or has fallen in a river.
Jack Wiseman is vice-chairman of Norfolk Lowland Search and Rescue, and water and technicians lead.
He was one of the brave souls kitted out to enter the River Bure, at Horstead Mill, during a training exercise on Sunday.
Based at Wroxham fire station, his team of 12 are flooding first responders and wade out to people's homes if they need rescuing.
The team, which has two boats, works alongside Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, but completely relies on fundraising and members are all volunteers.
Their coffers could be boosted later this year if they are successful in being granted £20,000 from the Department for Transport for equipment.
Mr Wiseman added: "Each member's equipment costs £1,500 and it has to be maintained. While Lowland Search and Rescue is quite a new thing, Norfolk Search and Rescue, which we took on, is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.
"In Norfolk, we have 65 members. The main base is at Wroxham, where we keep the equipment, and we have an office at Attleborough police station."
His team trains twice a month, and he added: "Horstead Mill is one of the only places in Norfolk with moving water.
"We give as much time as we need to. On average the water team does 500 hours yearly, which includes a lot of weekends.
"We train in dry suits. We do a bit of wading, simulate crossing streets under water, and building up confidence. People don't know, but even four inches of water moving at speed, can knock you off your feet. It's all about making sure we are ready when we are called on. The biggest problem we've got locally is that nothing has really happened recently, so it's due to happen. We need to keep our skills up to scratch."
Mr Wiseman works off-shore and he said that, as volunteers, it was sometimes hard to get time off.
Other volunteers run accountancy and vet practices, pea harvesting companies, or are librarians.
He added: "I've been involved for about five years. It's about giving back to the community, and doing something to help. I felt I had a set of skills that could be useful. I used to work as a mountaineering and power sports instructor, and spent a lot of time in North Wales and Scotland. "
The rescue team is called out to help find missing people and was deployed at Sainsbury's car park in North Walsham last week, in the ongoing search for missing 75-year-old June Turner.
"About 60 members from all over Norfolk were there in shifts for five days," he added. "You start the search from where the last person was seen, using data from multiple sources. You are looking for traces, whether a person smokes, or if a person does not want to be found, and from statistics. If someone has Alzheimer's they will walk in a straight line and only stop at a hard boundary."
They were joined at the training on Sunday by Mundesley Volunteer Inshore Lifeboat.
Mr Wiseman added: "We are teaming up as a local asset. We are developing skills together so we can become a national asset, and be deployed to floods in other parts of the country.
"We have been deployed before on a national basis to Chertsey, the River Thames, to flooding, and top the coast at Great Yarmouth, when there was a tidal surge. "The team also went to Cumbria to help firefighters in the clean-up of houses."
Nearer to home they had to rescue a boy who had jumped in the river at Horstead Mill.
Mr Wiseman added: "He was a 12-year-old boy who was swimming there. People don't realise the depth of the water. He panicked and we rescued him. He was all right. "We were training here at the time."
More recently, during the flooding, they helped people get out of their cars.
Mundesley Volunteer Inshore Lifeboat coxswain Colin Plummer said: "It's good for teams to be working together. We have 10 swift water technicians, and five are here at training. We mainly work at Walcott, Bacton and Eccles, with the floods. We are an independent lifeboat service and all volunteers. Each kit costs about £1400."