IFSJ Exclusive: Small and sturdy with Survitec

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Scott Tonks, Maritime Defence Category Manager at Survitec, tells all about one of the most advanced FRBs (Fast Rescue Boats) available for emergency services

Earlier this year, Global Survival Technology solutions provider Survitec introduced the new 420 GP/GPM FR, a new lightweight design inflatable rescue boat capable of rapid single-point inflation to meet the unique demands of waterborne search and rescue operations by the emergency services. IFSJ spoke to Scott Tonks, Maritime Defence Category Manager at Survitec, to learn more about how a greater understanding of how fire and rescue teams handle rescue boats led to the design of the new boat.


Based on military-grade technology, the seven-person boat is unique in that it is the emergency services sector’s first 4.2m long fast rescue boat that can be rapidly inflated using just one nine-litre self-contained carbon air cylinder.

The Survival Technology solution was developed after consultation with the emergency services. To gain a deeper understanding of how rescue boats perform in real operations and to develop an advanced solution capable of meeting market demand, Tonks and his team undertook water rescue modules 3 and 4 to gain much greater knowledge.

‘Module 3, Water Rescue Technician’, helped better understand rescue techniques and equipment first responders use in a swift-water and flood environment. While Module 4, Swift Water and Flood Rescue Operator course, was carried out over the period of a week with a major fire brigade.

“We were able to experience first-hand the situations first responders encounter and better understand the kit they need to do the job. It provided a fantastic opportunity to see what was required of an FRB in a real operational setting, allowing us to develop and design a solution capable of meeting all their needs,” says Tonks.


Using the information from the modules and the on-water experience gained from the emergency services, Survitec began working on the new 420 design to address some of the emergency services’ main challenges, such as getting a boat into remote locations and rapid inflation.

One key consideration in the development was the inflation system. By adopting a system designed for military boat application, Survitec could inflate the 420 GP/GPM FR boat from a single cylinder – the same cylinder firefighters wear on their backs – in just 40 seconds.

“We were able to significantly increase the speed of deployment using a single cylinder resulting in faster emergency response times, potentially saving more lives,” Tonks says.

Survitec, in partnership with Leafield Marine Ltd, redesigned the manifolds to ensure the optimal amount of air goes to each compartment of the boat, minimising the amount of air expelled through pressure relief valves. This also addressed air-loss issues due to fluctuating pressures operating in variable ambient temperatures.

“Changing temperatures is a real issue,” says Tonks. “Pressure varies in colder and warmer temperatures. Our single-cylinder solution is designed to bring the boat up to full pressure in all eventualities.”

As temperatures fluctuate throughout the day, pressure relief valves will let some of that air off to compensate for how we best use valves in varying temperatures, as Tonks attests.

“If a boat is over or under pressure, it’s going to cause issues,” he explains. “The keel is closer to the water, gets saturated, and therefore it will be colder. As a result, it will lose pressure, so we changed the pressure relief valve to be slightly higher than it needs so it will never be under-pressured to cause an issue.”


Another crucial element of FRB operation was understanding how firefighters handle rescue boats. This was achieved through a partnership with Technical Rescue International. “We noted valves, lifelines and other elements needed to be in a certain position because of where equipment is placed on board; this knowledge was invaluable in designing the boat to facilitate more unique requirements.”

Designed for rescues in fast-flowing waters and areas prone to flash flooding, the 420 GP/GPM FR boat is 4200m long and 1800m wide boat capable of a maximum payload of 903kg.

Manufactured from a durable Hypalon 1670dtex fabric and benchmarked against SOLAS and DEFRA rescue boat standards, the new boat incorporates reinforced grip patches and military-grade C7 interchangeable inflation valves strategically positioned to minimise any air loss during inflation. Any damage to valves can be easily replaced using a simple hand tool.

With multiple flooring options, the 420 GP/GPM FR can be packed and deployed so those first responders can be deployed into the water from vessels, piers and paths and with the FRB inflated in situ.

To emphasise the options available, Tonks refers to a project with a German emergency services unit that required a deck capable of supporting a set of ladders.

“We worked with them to understand how to get a ladder to work on an inflatable floor and hold its position safely,” he explains. “We can design new fittings to ensure they can secure ropes and guidelines.”

Looking ahead, Tonks says that with flash flooding increasing, emergency services will need this FRB to help save lives in areas that are often difficult to access. “Before now, first responders had to tow trailers and launch boats from slipways potentially some distance away from the location of the emergency, which places limitations on water rescue capability,” said Tonks. “With this solution, responders can access the immediate emergency area, get the boat in the water safely and quickly, and get on with the job of saving lives. We’ve been working with several fire brigades during testing stages who are very interested in the product.”

This article was originally published in the January edition of IFSJ. To read your FREE digital copy, click here.

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