IT IS known as the charity that saves lives at sea. But a record number of inland flooding calls is steering the volunteers who man the nation’s lifeboats in another direction.
Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) volunteers from all over Scotland gathered near Oban at the weekend for specialist flood-rescue training.
The ice-cold, fast-flowing waters of the River Awe and the Falls of Lora were ideal training locations because they replicate the conditions the RNLI flood-rescue team would face in a major flood.
Robin Goodlad, 37, the RNLI’s flood-rescue manager for the UK, who joined the volunteers in Argyll, said: “In the past two weeks, flooding has been in the news all over the UK and for flood teams across the UK this has been our busiest year by a long way.
“We have had seven proper deployments this year, which is a record, and we have had pockets of flooding all over the UK that we have had to deal with.”
Met Office figures show that this summer was the wettest in Britain for a century, with 370.07mm of rain falling across the UK.
Flood-rescue team members can be called to assist in any part of Britain, as the situation dictates.
Although the Fire and Rescue Service plays the lead role in coordinating inland flood rescue, the RNLI’s team is a declared asset, whose volunteers can be called to assist when flooding creates a large-scale emergency.
The team’s latest call came on Wednesday, when they helped evacuate people from their flooded homes in St Asaph, North Wales after the River Elwy burst its banks.
Some RNLI volunteers also stopped off on their way to a training exercise to help out when floods hit Comrie in Perthshire last week.