Tyne and Wear hosts national Urban Search and Rescue exercise

The North East was proud to recently stage a National Resilience Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) training exercise hosted at the Service Headquarters of Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service.

Over a two-day period nearly 150 operational crews and USAR specialists, along with representatives from other regional and national organisations gathered at Barmston Mere Training Centre in Washington, Tyne and Wear.

National Resilience USAR conducted a series of incident simulations aimed at comparing differing types of specialist response to a range of challenging scenarios, relevant to USAR operations. This event was held to support a Home Office project exploring how USAR can develop for the future.

The fire and rescue services who took part included: Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service; County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service; Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service; Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service; and West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service.

Other partnership organisations included: Northumbria Police; North East Ambulance Service HART (Hazardous Area Response Team); Military Observer; Salvation Army; and Sunderland University (paramedic Science students).

The different ‘real life’ scenarios that were tackled during the recent USAR exercise used cutting edge rescue techniques and specialist equipment. The intention was for the various teams to work together to resolve the situations and learn from how they approached the incidents.

The scenarios included two collapsed structures (car park and a block of flats); transport – rescuing people trapped in a train after an explosion and a separate incident with a coach vehicle; at height incident – a situation with a pylon; and investigating confined space – short and long travel distance.

Chris Lowther, Chief Fire Officer for Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, said, “We were proud to welcome the National Resilience teamto the region and for Tyne and Wear to host such an important and significant event. It provided the service with an opportunity to showcase its own Urban Search and Rescue skills that are present in the area.”

“Our service’s Urban Search and Rescue team, which provide specialist rescue capabilities for victims trapped in confined spaces as result of natural disasters, structural collapse, transport accidents and terrorist attacks, has gone from strength to strength.

“USAR services can be faced with complex rescue operations within a hazardous environment. Incidents experience shows that people are often found alive many hours and days after rescue operations commence, and the corresponding services should be planned accordingly.

“This event was all part of that planning, not just for now but looking to the future as we continue to work together to ensure the safety of our communities and that of the wider community.

“Today prepares us all for tomorrow’s unknowns.”

Steve Gadsdon, USAR Capability Advisor – NFCC National Resilience Assurance Team, said, “I am very grateful to our training delivery partners from Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service for hosting this event, and to the other fire and rescue services, National Resilience capabilities and partner agencies who took part, as their involvement allowed a true representation of operational response to be evaluated, which will help to inform the future of the USAR capability going forward.

“I would also like to thank the Paramedic Science students from Sunderland University who volunteered as casualties, which added a further level of realism to the scenarios, and the Sunderland branch of the Salvation Army who provided the welfare throughout the weekend.

“The whole event was put together by a multi-agency planning and delivery group, which ensured the event not only met the objectives of the USAR capability team but also exceeded the expectations of everyone who participated.

“Well done and thank you to everyone involved.”