Collaborative working alongside Hazardous Area Response Teams (HART)

AF&RS Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) teams recently took part in a two-day exercise at Fire Service College alongside Hazardous Area Response Teams (HART).

The course was the final part of paramedic’s intense training delivered by National Ambulance Resilience Unit (NARU) towards becoming a HART paramedic, one of the aims of this course was to ensure USAR can work safely and effectively alongside HART Paramedics, making sure they can deliver appropriate, high-quality patient care, and rescue those in need.

If a major incident - natural or man-made was to occur, people can become lost and trapped, this is where AF&RS’s USAR specialists firefighters come into play. They specialise in finding and freeing people from buildings that have collapsed, getting them to safety and are capable of responding to local, regional and UK-wide major incidents.

To provide USAR cover AF&RS has a team of 34 Technicians/ Operators, 2x search dogs and handlers plus 3 USAR Tactical Advisors, of this team 10 USAR Technicians/ Operators, a search dog and its handler, along with a USAR Tactical need to be available to provide cover 24/7- 365 days a year. The USAR crews at AF&RS are equipped with five operational modules containing specialist equipment to facilitate USAR firefighters to carry out their operations. The equipment ranges from DELSAR listening equipment and various search cameras which are used to find and locate trapped people or animals buried deep underground, to structural monitoring equipment which can detect movement in a structure allowing crews to continue the rescue whilst making the areas safe.

The two-day exercise provided an opportunity for HART Paramedics to gain an overview and insight into the role of a USAR operations alongside an overview of their responsibilities, which included explaining the role of its search and rescue dogs, understanding safe movement on unstable terrain as a team, hazards encountered in the USAR environment, and the control measures in place. Followed by breaching and breaking, lifting and moving, shoring (retaining the structure so that rescue can continue), hot cutting and Line Access Casualty Extrication awareness.

The final scenario simulated a structural incident involving over-ground and above-ground search, over-ground and above-ground location, treatment, and extrication of casualties. AF&RS and HART colleagues worked together to assist with extrication of all casualties, ensuring they were moved safely off the rubble pile.

There was also a display from the Services USAR dog Sally who showcased her unique scent tracking and search abilities during the exercise.

Gareth Lloyd, Station Manager at AF&RS, and USAR lead said: “It’s been a pleasure working alongside HART and its paramedics over the past couple of days. We regularly work alongside one another for the good of our communities ensuring we keep them safe, which is why training days like today are essential.  Not only do they help build better relations with our partner agencies, but they also provide a better understanding of the varied work each service provides as well as any joint working protocols that need to be maintained.

“As a Service, we’re always keen to develop our skills and to enhance our ability to deal with incidents involving structure collapse and complex rescue operations in hazardous environments.”