Unlike most of my Monday mornings, which start with me checking my emails and the morning editorial meeting, I spent the morning of November 1 submerged in a car in waist deep chilly, gravy-coloured water.

I was invited to visit HR Wallingford to take part in a ‘water rescue drama’ run by Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue. The exercise saw me take on the role of a ‘casualty’ whose vehicle was marooned in water and I was ‘saved’ by fire and rescue crews.

Before I arrived at HR Wallingford, I cannot lie, I was quite terrified about what the morning had in store.

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It is human nature not to put ourselves in harm’s way and my entire body was shouting at me to turn around and run in the other direction. The very idea of voluntarily getting in a sunken car surrounded by water seemed like a terrible idea. However, the journalist in me saw it as a fantastic way to experience the work of the fire service up close and personal.

Oxford Mail: Sophie Perry suited up in the water-proof gearSophie Perry suited up in the water-proof gear

I pushed my doubts aside, and (quite literally) took the plunge.

I was given a safety talk by Jules Frank, Oxfordshire County Council’s Fire and Rescue Service training manager, suited up in full water-proof gear and then waded into the water.

The pool they were using for my roleplay part of a suite of facilities at HR Wallingford that includes a purpose-built hall which extends around 14,400 square meters, with huge wave basins and flumes. The flow in the pool can be adjusted to simulate various conditions such as currents, water speed and direction.

The day of my visit was not without purpose, coinciding with the Cop26 World Leaders’ Summit the exercise highlights how urban environments are increasingly effected by flooding due to climate change.

Oxford Mail: Inside the warehouse at HR Wallingford where the car was submerged. Picture: Sophie Perry Inside the warehouse at HR Wallingford where the car was submerged. Picture: Sophie Perry

David Todd Lab Manager at HR Wallingford, said: “As climate change intensifies, flooding becomes more common; resulting in more incidents involving people getting into difficulties in open water.

“Our work is increasingly focused on dealing with the challenges presented by this changing world, and we usually use our facilities for global engineering projects.”

He added: “We are therefore delighted to be helping Oxfordshire County Council’s Fire and Rescue Service keep people safe. So, it’s fantastic to be involved with this training; bringing real safety benefits to the local community."

I was placed in the submerged car and left on my own for a few minutes while the crew got ready.

As I sat I could not help but think what it would be like for this to happen in real-life. How terrifying would it be to have veered off the road into a body of freezing cold water, sinking and trapped, with a brave rescue team the only thing between yourself and death.

The work of Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue is truly heroic and invaluable to the public.

Oxford Mail: The Fire and Rescue Crew used two ways to 'rescue' me from the carThe Fire and Rescue Crew used two ways to 'rescue' me from the car

I was rescued from the car in two ways during the roleplay. The first saw me walk with the team in a line against the flow of the current to a place of safety and the second saw me escape the vehicle through the boot and onto a life raft.

The exercise simulated someone who was caught in a flash flood and reinforces ‘why residents shouldn’t drive into floodwater, large puddles, and fords’, as it is difficult to estimate the depth of water.

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Mr Frank explained: “Over recent years, we have used a number of open natural water courses such as lakes and rivers, including locks and weirs; training our crews in a wide range of environments that they are likely to encounter on emergency calls.

“However, as the urban environment is increasingly likely to suffer from floods, HR Wallingford’s facility gives us an opportunity to replicate these climate-related conditions to our exact specifications. It wouldn’t be practical to create floods for training elsewhere, without causing damage to property and the local environment.

“HR Wallingford also offers a very clean water source compared to natural waterways, which is important for the health and safety of our crews.”

Oxford Mail: The team worked together to 'rescue' me from the sunken carThe team worked together to 'rescue' me from the sunken car

Open water safety advice:

Oxfordshire County Council’s Fire and Rescue Service advises that:

• Reservoirs, lakes, rivers, and other inland water may look safe and inviting, particularly on a warm day. But there are hidden dangers below the surface that could make people ill, cause injury; even kill.

• Even on a warm day, the temperature of the water in a reservoir, quarry or lake can remain very cold. The low water temperature can numb limbs and claim lives.

• From the surface, it’s not always possible to see what’s under the water. This could be anything from large rocks to machinery; from shopping trolleys to branches, and even fishhooks or broken fishing line, all of which could cause injury.

• Moving water, such as rivers, might look calm but there could be strong currents below the surface. Even reservoirs have currents, caused by working machinery. Whether or not someone’s a strong swimmer, currents can carry them into danger.

Anyone witnessing someone in trouble in the water should call 999 or 112 and shout for help. They shouldn’t enter the water themselves; instead throw something in that floats. The advice is for a person in trouble to float on their back, not try to swim.

Respect the water, even if you’re a good swimmer and familiar with the river, lake, or reservoir. Be water aware.