Spotlight on Dave Horn, Senior Operations Manager at York Rescue Boat

by Handy Mag

Dave Horn has been involved with York Rescue Boat from the outset in 2014. We talked to him about what the Charity does, how it supports York and how people can get involved.

Q What is your background?

I grew up in York with my Mum and Dad and younger brother. I joined the Royal Air Force in 1983 and served 11 years. I then joined the Police in 1994, retiring in 2016. I re-joined the Police in 2018 and work in the Force Control Room as a member of the Police Staff.

Q When did you get involved with York Rescue Boat, where are you based and what does your role entail?

I joined York Rescue Boat in 2014 when it was advertised that a team was being developed to try and improve safety on the rivers of York after a number of deaths had been reported on the river. At the moment we do not have a base, but we are trying to get funds together to purchase a place that we can call home. I am the Senior Operations Manager and though my role means that I am in charge of York Rescue Boat, it still means that I undertake foot and boat patrols, exactly the same as the rest of the operational team. I do not expect anyone to do anything that I will not do myself.

Q How did York Rescue Boat come about?

York Rescue Boat is an independent search and rescue charity, based in York. Founded in 2014 after a series of deaths in the city’s rivers, York Rescue Boat has grown from humble beginnings raising money out of the back of a car, to a highly trained and capable team becoming renowned for its work both in York and further afield.

Our work centres around the Rivers Ouse and Foss. Uniquely, we work to make the city safer by carrying out combined patrols by boat and on foot at high-risk times every weekend throughout the year, as opposed to just responding to emergency calls.

We also cover other times as requested by North Yorkshire Police or other agencies. This approach brings team members into contact with many people along the river; around 80% of people we deal with during incidents are classed as vulnerable or with mental health issues who are drawn to the river.

We have a Memorandum of Understanding in place with North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue and the Police who can call upon York Rescue Boat to assist with rescues, missing person searches and any other incidents where our expertise and equipment can be used.

In addition to our work around York, York Rescue Boat provides a nationally deployable flood rescue team, available to the Fire and Rescue Service National Control Centre to be sent anywhere in the country in times of serious large-scale flooding. 2015 saw the teams deployed to one of the largest flooding events ever recorded in the UK, the floods following Storm Desmond. York Rescue crews were deployed to Cumbria and helped perform over 80 rescues in difficult circumstances. Christmas 2015 saw the team working in their home city when York was the subject of major flooding as part of Surf Life Saving GB’s (SLSGB) network of lifesaving clubs.

We are all volunteers no one receives a wage, and we rely on the generosity of the public to keep the team afloat.

Q How many people volunteer with the Charity currently?

Currently, there are 28 members of the operational team, a further 16 probationers going through training to become part of the operational team, 10 fundraisers and 4 trustees.

Q What services does York Rescue Boat provide for the York area?

York Rescue Boat undertakes proactive patrols every Friday and Saturday night, both on the river and on foot. We also conduct patrols in other busy periods such as when the races are on, Bank Holidays and other similar events. Patrols cover the river from Millennium Bridge downstream from York to Scarborough Bridge upstream of York and the River Foss. Our patrols can be extended to cover further as required and have extended upstream past Beningborough and downstream past Naburn Lock.

The team also provides educational water safety training and advice. Over the last 6 years, we have provided this training to over 5000 individuals ranging in age from 4 to 90 years. These have included training to Scout Groups, Cadets, Colleges, University, Women’s Institutes, and other similar groups.

The team has also provided fully trained flood teams with equipment that are able to be deployed out of area nationally, such as in the floods in Carlisle in 2015, and were placed on standby to travel internationally for the severe flooding in South Carolina after Storm Caroline in 2020, and in Germany in 2021.

We work closely alongside the emergency services where we provide a 24-hour 365 day call out system. We are able to provide extra resources and equipment in searches for vulnerable persons, rescue of persons in the water, and assist in the recovery of persons that have died in the river so that they can be returned to their family to enable closure for them. In 2021 York Rescue Boat was called out by the emergency services 61 times and saved 3 lives. Since we became operational, the team have been called out over 200 times.

Q How does the Charity work off the river to help prevent accidents?

We work on the principles of Education, Prevention and Rescue, with the belief that if we get education and prevention right then there will be less need for rescue. We have a dedicated group that undertake educational presentations to provide water safety advice and how to keep themselves and others safe when they are around water. We are also part of a number of working groups such as the River Ouse Safety Advisory Group and Water Safety Group, which allows organisations to come together and develop joint working to try and make the use of waterways safer for everyone.

Q Do you need more volunteers? How does training work?

We do need more volunteers, not just for the operation team but also for the fundraising team as, without funding, York Rescue Boat cannot operate. If anyone is interested in volunteering, they can send an email to:

Training for the Operational Team takes approximately 8 months and covers everything from radio procedure, command, and control DEFRA lv 1 Water Safety to first aid and Mental Health awareness.

Q Does the Charity receive grants or funding? If not, how can the general public get involved to support the work the charity does?

York Rescue Boat receives no grants or funding from the Government or the local council and is funded by the kind generosity of members of the public, local companies and by applying for grants from other companies and organisations.

Q How has the Charity survived the pandemic and what were the main challenges?

The pandemic was difficult for everyone, but it allowed us to relook at the charity, how it functioned and areas that we could do better. Fortunately, we had a small amount of reserves that covered the main running costs, such as insurances, MOT, servicing of the vehicles etc. The hardest part was going so long without being able to fundraise as the bills still come in and need paying, but we had no money coming in.

Q What’s your proudest moment?

The first day that we became operational. After all the planning and fundraising about that day it eventually arrived, and it felt like we had arrived and achieved what we wanted to do.

Q Do you have any events planned for 2022?

There are a number of events planned in 2022 including ‘Party in the Park’ which will be held at Rowntree Park and a Charity Dinner. We will also be attending the Balloon Festival and a number of other local events.

Q What does the future hold for York Rescue Boat?

Though we have been running for 7 years, as yet, we do not have a permanent base, so we are now starting to raise funds so that York Rescue Boat can have a proper home. It may take a few years to achieve, but with the team that we have, I’m sure we will achieve it.


Q Owl or Lark?

Lark! I love getting up early in the morning knowing that it is a new day with new surprises and not knowing what the day has planned for me.

Q What did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to join the Royal Air Force and the Police.

Q If you could only have one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Chicken Biryani and vegetable curry

Q Any hobbies?

I enjoy sailing, reading, and walking my dogs

Q Who would you have at a dinner party and why?

My Dad, he died 11 years ago, and he was one person that I could really talk to, and I miss those conversations.

Q Favourite holiday destination and why?

The Lake District. I have been on holiday there since I was very young and even after all these years, I always find something new and beautiful that I have not seen before.

Q Who is your biggest inspiration?

Douglas Bader. He was a RAF Pilot during the second World War who lost both his legs and managed to overcome adversary to be able to return to flying. For me this showed determination to follow a dream and that with a positive mind set you could achieve anything.

Q What have you missed and what have you enjoyed during the pandemic?

I missed my family as some of them live a distance away. I enjoyed the peace and quiet when I went for a walk without the hustle and bustle of everyday life

Q I couldn’t get through the weekend without…

My wife Gill

For more information about York Rescue Boat, visit

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