Fast Rescue Device (FReD) launches in the UK

North Wales water rescue experts behind the launch of a pioneering life-saving device: a remote-controlled life buoy designed to help people struggling in deep water or those too far away for a throw-line.

A team of North Wales water rescue experts are behind the UK launch of a pioneering lifesaving device timed to coincide with today’s World Drowning Prevention Day. Corwen-based Ruth Lee, a world-leading provider of rescue training aids, has been working with Outreach Rescue in Bangor to test the device.

The Fast Rescue Device (FReD) is an innovative remote-controlled life buoy for water rescue designed for when a person in trouble in deep water needs swift help or is too far away for a throw-line. The 12.5kg unmanned surface vessel is a powerful device that can be used in a wide range of conditions, including fast moving water and waves up to three metres.

FReD was unveiled at last month’s Royal Life Saving Society UK Conference in Coventry. “Sometimes rescuers need a fast deployment to ensure the best possible outcome for someone in peril in the water,” said Sarah Hampson, Global Marketing Manager of Ruth Lee, leading experts in lifeguard and water rescue products. “FReD has an industry-leading range of 800 metres and can quickly and safely carry out a rescue without risking a rescue swimmer.

“It is perfect for a range of teams including lifeguards, beach lifeguards, open water swimming sites, docks and harbours as well as search and rescue teams working in open water, commercial shipping, leisure boating and cruise ships.”

Testing FReD out in Snowdonia’s lakes

Jess Ward, Technical Rescue Trainer for Outreach Rescue in Bangor, North Wales, was the first person in the UK to test FReD. She took it out to Llyn Padarn in Snowdonia, one of the largest natural lakes in Wales and 94 feet deep in places, and the fast-moving Menai Strait off Anglesey.

“FReD is a brilliant device for scenarios where you need to get a buoyancy aid out quickly to a conscious casualty in water,” she said. “It’s big, orange and buoyant with nice easy handles to hold on to and would be a useful tool for stabilising a person in the water.

“At seven knots unloaded, I was impressed at the speed it can travel, its controlled manner, and the fact that it provides a low-risk option to the person conducting the rescue. Because the user operates it from land, they don’t have to commit to getting into the water, avoiding the associated risks of in-water rescue.

“Once FReD has reached a person in trouble, it can automatically return to land using GPS positioning, can be manually directed back, or just used as a buoyancy device while awaiting rescue from trained professionals. It will be useful in popular bathing areas where it can be deployed as soon as someone gets into difficulty to provide rapid assistance and prevent a situation from worsening.”

Launched to coincide with World Drowning Prevention Day

World Drowning Prevention Day is held annually on 25 July to highlight the tragic and profound impact of drowning on families and communities and offer life-saving solutions to prevent it. According to the World Health Organisation, drowning is the third leading cause of unintentional injury death worldwide and accounts for 7% of all injury-related deaths. Globally, there are estimated to be 236,000 drowning deaths every year.

The Royal Lifesaving Society UK’s recent ‘National Drowning Report UK 2022’ highlights that 226 of those deaths happened in our own nation, with 60% of these occurring inland, in rivers, lakes and other bodies of water. 83% of those fatalities were male and the average age of accidental fatality inland was 35 years, compared to 51 years at the coast.

Find out more about Fast Rescue Device (FReD).

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Jo is the Gear Editor for Outdoor Swimmer and also writes news and features for the website. A keen open water swimmer and long-distance walker, she loves seeking out lakes and lidos close to her home in the Mendip Hills, Somerset. She is the author of The Slow Traveller, editor and founder of independent magazine, Ernest, and has previously tested outdoor clothing and kit for BBC Countryfile Magazine, BBC Focus and Ernest Journal.