OXFORDSHIRE has a new team of volunteers trained to rescue people from floods.

The electricians, teachers and bankers of Oxfordshire Lowand Search and Rescue (OxSAR) already give their time to help police to look for missing people.

Now, after weeks of training, they can also help the fire service rescue people from floods and get them to safety.

Oven cleaning business owner and volunteer Steve Archibald, 43, said: “In Oxford we’re surrounded by water, and we all need to support our neighbours.

“Whether its an old lady with her budgie or a big, strong rugby player, that is someone’s loved one.

“When you’re soaking wet and freezing cold searching for someone in the middle of the night, that’s what keeps you going.”

On May 20, OxSAR signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue.

Now, if the fire service asks the volunteers to be on call, they cannot drink and will have to be able to drop everything to get to emergencies.

The group has used a £9,980 Big Lottery Fund grant to buy dry suits, helmets, boots, personal floatation devices and an eight-man rescue raft.

Volunteers also spent weeks training on open water and had hours of lectures on how rivers work.

Mr Archibald added: “It is all about knowing the water, knowing where you can walk.”

Some 12 members have been trained in flood rescue and river bank searching and OxSAR hopes to double this by the end of the summer.

The volunteers are also available to Oxfordshire County Council’s emergency planning team to assist in sandbagging and leafleting.

About 18,300 properties are at risk of flooding in Oxfordshire.

Assistant chief fire officer Simon Furlong said: “We welcome the opportunity to work alongside this highly-trained, highly-motivated, highly- effective and well-equipped organisation in support of our local communities at times of need.”

  • OxSAR relies entirely on donations, which can be given by texting OXSR05 to 70070 for £5 or OXSR10 to donate £10.