THE NORMALLY peaceful Coate Water Country Park was the setting of a large-scale emergency response overnight. 

But, it was all just part of a large-scale flood response training exercise organised by Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue (DWFire) and Swindon Borough Council. 

Dozens of water rescue specialists from organisations such as Wiltshire Search and Rescue, (Wiltsar) DWFire, Severn Area Rescue Association and Avon Fire and Rescue were involved as well as the HM Coastguard. 

Swindon Advertiser: A large emergency service response at the flood exercise at Coate WaterA large emergency service response at the flood exercise at Coate Water (Image: Wiltshire Search and Rescue)

From roughly 6.30pm, volunteers and firefighters carried out 'searches' of the Coate Water lakes and performed 'life-saving rescues'.

At one point, a patient was winched to safety from the iconic Coate Water diving board. 

A Wiltsar spokesperson said: "The scenario tested our ability to respond to a flood in Wiltshire, which required 32 people (plus a dog and a cat) to be rescued from their “homes” back to safe ground on the opposite bank.

"They were then taken to a rest centre and given support.

Swindon Advertiser: Search and Rescue volunteers searching for 'evacuees' on a boatSearch and Rescue volunteers searching for 'evacuees' on a boat (Image: Wiltshire Search and Rescue)"Some of them were 'stuck on roofs', needing to be extracted by specialist boat crews using ladders or by helicopter. It also practised bringing in further resources from other countries.

"We hope that major flooding never happens in the region, but exercises like this ensure we are prepared to deploy into unknown and hostile conditions"

The volunteer search and rescue organisation thanked Coate Water County Park and Railway for helping to set up the complicated training scenario, and also Pegasus Explorer Scout Unit for being 'willing evacuees'. 

Alongside the statement, Wiltshire Search and Rescue posted a series of photos showing the full scale of the training exercise. 

Swindon Advertiser: Someone being 'rescued' from the top of the Coate Water diving boardSomeone being 'rescued' from the top of the Coate Water diving board (Image: Wiltshire Search and Rescue)In it, you can see multiple fire engines using a ladder, boats and helicopters were all involved.

Staff from Swindon Borough Council and British Red Cross Emergency Response Wiltshire then manned the 'rest centre' where evacuees were taken

A British Red Cross spokesman said: "we were supporting at the rest centre with Swindon Borough Council staff.

"It wasn’t until the exercise evacuees arrived at the centre and showed us footage that we got to see that HM Coastguard was involved.

"Great test of preparedness."

Swindon Advertiser: Another person 'rescued' during the flood training exerciseAnother person 'rescued' during the flood training exercise (Image: Wiltshire Search and Rescue)The organisation had released a statement earlier in the day warning the public that the training exercise was going to take place. 

It said: "On Friday evening, multiple emergency services will be running an exercise in the Swindon area, practising an evacuation and establishing a rest centre.

“There will be a large number of specialist emergency services vehicles present in the town, but this should be no cause for concern.”