Rapid Response Unit
Serving the Community - near and far
Peter Leigh, Dungeness Shift Technician remembers 1989 for two reasons – he started work on site and became a volunteer with the RNLI.
Peter started work at Dungeness in the General Services Team before training to become a Health Physics Monitor and more recently a Shift Technician.
Peter is also now a Senior Helmsman with Littlestone Lifeboat. For most of us this would be enough but not for Peter; he is also a volunteer within the RNLI for the Rapid Response Unit (RRU) which is on standby to deploy at 24 hours notice to anywhere in the world if their support is needed.
The Rapid Response Unit was formed in 2000 from volunteers within the RNLI. A unit consists typically of a group of 20 people who are Swift Water Technicians i.e. have undergone an intensive training course on fast flowing water and the associated dangers. The team will also have specialist skills including a doctor, fork lift truck driver, crane driver and rigger. All will be first aiders, have technical rope skills and will all have had their inoculations! The Rapid Response Unit uses the RNLI’s "D" Class Lifeboat which can be deflated, packed and re-inflated where needed.
Peter has been involved in helping the flood–hit areas of Great Yarmouth as well as Gloucestershire and Norfolk in 2007 and has also responded to an international call for support from Guyana, South America for humanitarian relief and Search and Rescue in 2005.
In Guyana weeks of rain and flooding had made over 250,000 people homeless and there was a risk of a major dam giving way to compound the situation. The RRU, along with six D-Class Lifeboats, were despatched and ready to carry out their work on the Mohaica River within 56 hours. The team helped with the logistics of getting emergency planning, relief organizations and aid into the worst affected areas. They stayed for nearly two weeks and, before leaving, trained Guayanes coastguards how to use the lifeboats which were donated for future use if required.
The exceptional work of the RRU has been recognized and Peter, along with other crew members, was last year presented with a certificate for 'outstanding contribution to the community during the floods in 2007' by Gordon Brown, Prime Minister and has also been awarded with a medal for 'Services to the Community'. Peter said: "I am still enthusiastic about my role within the RNLI and knowing that my efforts can save lives really does give me job satisfaction."