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Portsafe – The World’s First Public Access Water Rescue System


The time taken to rescue a member of the public in a real-life water rescue situation is crucial.  Even the strongest swimmers can succumb to cold water shock within a few minutes.  Portsafe enables members of the public to conduct swift and directionally-accurate rescues by retrieving casualties in the water from a safe distance minimising the danger posed to themselves whilst also boosting casualty survival chances.  Developed in response to repeated reports of vandalism with existing water rescue systems, Portsafe securely houses a long-reach telescopic rescue pole with an emergency throwline inside lockable boxes that are accessible via a code granted by quoting the Portsafe’s location number to the emergency services. 


Spearheaded by Reach and Rescue with our colleagues at Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, the Portsafe is now installed in 50 high-risk public water areas across the UK including 12 in Bedfordshire.  In fact, the telescopic rescue pole stationed along the embankment in Bedford has already been used to successfully retrieve a casualty to save their life.  The official word from Nick Lyall, Superintendent Head of Operations at Bedfordshire Police as follows:


"On the 3rd June 2019 Police were made aware of a person in the river, at The Embankment, Bedford. The individual was some way out in the river.


The officer attending noticed the reach pole, and immediately requested the pin number. The officer hadn’t been trained to use the pole but it was easy to use.


The pole was used to reach the person in the river and bring them to the safety of the bank where they received the medical care they required.


The reach pole was used to safely rescue a member of the public without the person using it needing any prior training.


From my perspective, a life saving device."


Portsafe is the innovative new water rescue solution that is:


  • Accessible to the general public
  • Simple-to-use
  • Quick to deploy to speed up the rescue
  • Safe for rescuers keeping them out of harm’s way
  • Linked to the emergency services alerting them when in use
  • Tamperproof to protect from vandalism


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The pole’s simplicity means that members of the public will be able to carry out a rescue without any prior training.  The system’s rigid design enables the operator to direct and control the rescue rather than expecting someone who is in the water - cold, confused and terrified - to swim towards a life ring.  


The pole itself is contained in a lockable box and stands at the water’s edge similar to a traditional life ring.  But unlike the life ring, it is secure from vandalism and is more accurate when in use.  The system can reach someone in distress in the water in as little as 20 seconds, and reach up to 17 metres.  


A location number is shown on the Portsafe board for the caller to quote when ringing the emergency services; it is this number that grants the caller access to the pole via an access code given to them by the emergency services.  

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