More than 100 HM Coastguard Rescue Officers were deployed across the UK as part of the National Flood Response Framework during the Storm Babet response last weekend, with coastguard flood rescue teams seen across news channels in some of the worst affected areas.
If you tuned into any mainstream news channel during coverage, you would have seen some of our teams in action, as they rescued people from homes caught in floods.
Graham, a coastguard rescue officer from Southport in Merseyside, was among those deployed to Brechin and Invergowrie in Northeast Scotland last week, as he helped warn and evacuate residents caught out by the rising waters.
Sent as part of the coastguard flood team in Area 15 (officers from Wirral, Southport, Fleetwood, Knott End, Arnside, Furness, Millom, Whitehaven and Maryport Rescue Teams), Graham travelled to Scotland to join coastguard flood teams from all across the UK.
He said that it was an experience that will stay with him forever, as the resilience and bravery of the residents he helped left him with a lasting impression. It was the first time his team had been deployed to a live flood incident, having completed the training earlier in the year.
“I am so pleased I stepped forward when they asked for volunteers,” he said. “I am so glad that I was able to help people. We went to do what we are trained to do but seeing it firsthand, people losing everything to the water, was tough.
“The tenacity and resilience of people, when disaster strikes, can be really incredible though. They were the ones faced with a horrendous situation, and yet they were thanking us for coming.”
He said that his team were sent to Brechin ahead of the flood and helped in the evacuation, before being dispatched to Invergowrie, near Dundee, the following day to rescue people who had become trapped in their flooded homes.
“We were going door to door in Invergowrie,” he said. “Which was a strange experience for a coastguard, as there was slightly less urgency than we’re used to, no less danger of course, but it was different. It was something you had to witness firsthand but the bravery and care for each other – and us – was humbling. We all commented on it and we were all humbled by their attitude in the face of the carnage and destruction around them.”
The Area 15 flood team were in Scotland for four days, helping emergency service partners with the response, before heading back on Sunday.
“There was definite trepidation before we went,” Graham said. “Some tension in the air about what lay ahead.
“We were seeing the extreme weather warnings and news, although we were well prepared and well trained for it all, we were all a bit on edge throughout. When we arrived and saw the speed and power of the water in the river at Brechin though, we knew that we would have work to do, and potentially lives to save.
“It was such a team effort - including the wider emergency services team - we're really grateful to our emergency service partners (especially Scottish Fire and Rescue) for allowing us to take over rooms, kitchens, giving us hot drinks and making us feel like part of the team.”