This last year has been like no other! Challenges like we’ve never faced before and changes that we never thought we’d have to make.

Despite this SPEAR has been able to adapt and overcome, setting up alternative ways of both training and fundraising. We have had a very successful year, with Covid support deployments, the recruitment of 3 new members, a wonderful fundraising effort by 2 of our trustees, our first boat (named Summit by our supporters) & developing the charity as a whole.

A number of volunteers joined Covid-19 deployments, alongside partner agencies such as Serve On & SARAID, offering help and support to those shielding from the virus. Members visited homes to ensure that residents had access to food and medication, signposted people to support services and provided a friendly face and ear in times when many were suffering great loneliness and anxiety.

Over the Christmas period (including Christmas day) members were on standby to deploy to areas affected by severe flooding. This truly showed the team’s dedication and that SPEAR is able to respond 24/7 365.

Again in January SPEAR were placed on standby for flood response. Many of our members stepped up, volunteering their time and again readied themselves to deploy. Although the team is currently stood down we are still monitoring the flood situation and remain on high alert. These standbys are a great way to ensure preparedness of both our volunteers and the charity as a whole. They allow us to review our deployment protocols and improve, ready for the next time we’re called upon.

During the pandemic we have moved a lot of training online, running regular MS Teams webinars covering a variety of topics from patient assessment, through to drowning and JESIP principles. These have been well received by members and something that we intend to keep up in the future.

In early December, after Lockdown 2.0, we were able to hold face-to-face marine training. Thinking outside the box, ensuring regular hand sanitising, mask wearing and maintaining social distancing wherever possible, members were still able to practice all the key skills necessary of a flood response team. This was particularly important as SPEAR is applying for DEFRA registration within the next couple of weeks and training hours and competencies need to be maintained.

Over the next year we have plans to supply water safety training to local businesses, help teach first aid skills to primary school children and give back to the communities that have supported us through this tough time. We have been improving links with other NGO’s through our umbrella organisation UKIVRA and joint training is on the horizon when the current lockdown ends! The SIMEX series, that we took part in in 2019 is looking to run again in 2021, albeit in a very different way and SPEAR members have been involved in the planning stages of this. DEFRA registration, as well as continued marine and medical training remain a priority, alongside achieving our 2021 fundraising targets. We are also hoping to be in a position later in the year to run a recruitment drive.

All in all, SPEAR has achieved a lot despite the Covid-19 pandemic. We are proud of all our volunteers for their continued commitment and readiness to respond. We look forward to 2021 and the exciting opportunities (& challenges) that it will bring!