Some history and background into the specialist Rescue Division, The ERT SAR Marine Unit

The Purpose of the Marine Unit is to respond to disasters and Search and Rescue (SAR) taskings or incidents involving a body of water and where their skills and assets can be utilized for an official purpose, such as floods, storms, lakes, coastal or even mud, ice and snow.  The Marine Unit deals with any such "Water" capacity and that even includes connected subjects such as body recoveries or snow and Ice / 4X4 towing.

The ERT SAR Marine Unit can deploy anywhere in the world as part of the International Disaster Response ability and well as developing Resilience and Capacity Building initiatives.  This is a unique skill set that augments much of the life saving with essential support services where water is concerned, whether caused by monsoon rains, tsunamis, floods, etc. 

The main disciplines of the Marine Unit are listed below, however in 2016 we are further developing this capacity.

The Marine Unit uses members from all deployable SQUADS, B to D in different capacities however to be deployable to the hot zone of a Water Rescue Incident you need to be in the H.E.A.T. Team (C Squad) or D Squad.

(Insofar as they are related to a water based incident)

  • Flat water
  • Swift Water 
  • International**
  • Snow and Ice Boat
  • Animal Rescue 
  • Body Recovery 
  • Incident Management 
  • GSAR / Land Search
  • Water to Land or Air Transfer
  • Floods 
  • Rope
  • Haz-Mat
  • Safety Boat 4X4 /ATV
  • Towing /Transportation
  • Responding to distress calls
  • Water Searches
  • Marine Medical
  • C&C (Command & Control)


In North America all ERT SAR related training is NFPA 1670 and NFPA 1006 Compliant (i.e., Swiftwater, Ice Rescue etc.)



In The U.K. ERT SAR is on the DEFRA Asset list as a Type B and Type C Team with members trained to all 6 Modules.



The Marine Unit is an Amphibious Unit and falls under the specialist division of our ERT SAR RESCUE Section and usually deployed in cases where water is a factor as a hazard such as lakes, rivers, canals, floods, ice, snow, mud and even storm environments.  Nationally in the UK our team deployed to many emergencies including but not limited to  

  • The 2007 July Floods in Oxfordshire with Oxforshire Fire and Rescue
  • The 2010 Jan Snow storm in the Thames Valley (CCA 1 - OxFRS / TVP)
  • The 2012 DEFRA deployment to Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue 
  • The 2013 DEFRA FRSNCC deployment to Norfolk at a Type B and Type C Team
  • The 2014 DEFRA FRS deployments in the Home Counties 

The Marine Unit is deployed internationally and well as nationally in response to water based events such as flooding, storms, tsunami response, etc. Such storms and floods where Marine Unit members have deployed includes the 

  • The 2004 Boxing day tsunami in Sri Lanka
  • The 2010 Indus River Floods of Pakistan 
  • The 2012 Superstorm Sandy in New York 
  • The 2013 Superstorm Haiyan in the Philippines.


Our first boat was bought in 2004 and was 17 foot long and had a 50 HP console steer engine.  

That year it worked closely with the Environment Agency in the River Thames as soon after, the Thames Valley Police (from Sulhampstead) and also did events such as the Trad Boat Rally.

ERT SAR has bought about 17 boats since then but we always remember our first - "SAR 1" which was retired just last year.  Some of those have been donated or bought for missions and left in country and some we still own. This year (2014) we expect to buy more.  We have also been generously supported by different benefactors and groups who have bought or donated kit for us. 

The most recent being a generous donation 25 HP outboard engine from David Jobson of Jarshire in Berkshire that will serve one of our powerboats - currently being used as a vessel in the Thames and on stand by for flood response duties.

The PDC (Pacific Disaster Centre) state that Floods are one of the most common hazards on Earth and have claimed millions of lives in the past 100 years. Flooding can be triggered by heavy rainfall, tsunamis, high astronomical tides, snow melt, ice jams, prolonged strong onshore winds, or a failure of dams/levees to triggered.

ERT SAR has seen the impact and effects of water hazards and can provide a service to help people survive in a disaster and build resiliance and their local capacities as well as a service to others.


This includes our capacity to respond in (mud) snow and ice and environments with 4X4s and rescue / medical services as we have done in the past.  (The picture above was take when deployed by Oxforshire FRS in Jan 2010 snow disaster.)

We provided eight 4X4s and 28 members on rotating shifts a week for the Fire Service, Police and County Council.


The Marine Unit Structure in ERT SAR is as a specialist division of the RESCUE Section.


The Marine Unit had developed a unique capacity for Water based, Medical, (Flood and Water) and International deployments and have deployed nationally and internationally in this regard.


Lt: July 2007 Floods in Oxfordshire. Members sandbagging in Standlake   |  Rt: July 2007 Floods in Oxon: members on water rescue Botley Road

Pictured: ERT SAR Marine Unit members deployed to the Indus River, Pakistan during the 2010 floods. 

The Marine Unit is a sub-division of the ERT SAR Specialist RESCUE SECTION.

To join the Marine Unit the member should have additional training and qualifications and obviously be fitter and able to swim.  usually after gaining full membership as a SAR Engineer they can express their interest and apply to join the RESCUE Section and specialize in the MARINE UNIT.

On top of the externally recognised certifications (such as Flood / Swiftwater Rescue) the member must complete the Marine Unit induction and complete quarterly sessions and skills sessions as well as team exercises.

Upon successful completion of 10 basic requirements the ERT SAR Member can earn the Marine Unit certificate and badge.


The Marine Unit badge was designed at inception in 2004 and updated around 2010 and this recent badge was approved by the SAR Chief, 2014 for the 10 year anniversary.

It shows the ERT SAR shield logo over a fouled anchor showing the protection of the organisation (ERTSAR) and our partners over the unit and the integral relationship of the Marine Unit to the organisation.  It is a specialist Amphibious unit and the fouled anchor behind the shield represents all aspects of the marine and water aspects - showing challenge in all endeavours such as deploying to disasters overseas or the unpredictable and threatening force of water and behind the scenes - but with success and achievement overall.  

The globe (in lines) behind represents the world and the international capacity of the unit and the ability to work and deploy 'anywhere' in the world and in any capacity and terrain - land, air and sea / water.

So much so that we called one of our first videos fron 2004/2005 that: By Land, By Air, By Sea.

(We were called OSAR or Oxfordshire Search and Rescue for the first few years but later changed our name to ERT SAR - The Emergency Response Team SAR)

The circular aspect of the twisted laid rope represents the rescue aspects of the unit and the specialists equipment of the (marine) rope. The two flags represent the founding and established countries, The UK and Canada.  The blue icon centre shield represents many aspects including the 4 cardinal point of the compass and search as well as GSAR / WSAR and Air SAR. The central green crest represent medicine as well as the bravery and dedication of the members of ERT SAR.


ERT SAR Members should train regularly and attend as many sessions during the year to ensure they are current and well practised with other members of the Marine Unit.  The ERT SAR Marine Unit is very unique as one of our first specialist areas and requires our Tech Rescue / Water Rescue and response members to work in with other groups such as Medics.



LT: ERT SAR training with Oxfordshire Fire & Rescue "Romeo Unit" (2007) | RT: Deployed with Gloucs FRS as a DEFRA Type B Listed Asset (2012) 



ERT SAR Tech. Rescue (Swiftwater Rescue) Members with the Peel Regional Police Marine Unit on Lake Ontario 


Marine Unit Training from UK to Canada: pictured Gary Foo, Justin Levine, Josh Foo, Amanda Regan, Luke Barton, Dan Turner, Jason McLoughlin.

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