New 'urban rescue' squad created

EXPERIENCED firefighters are being sought to join a new highly specialised rescue squad being set up in Essex.And on Saturday a recruitment open day for the Urban Search and Rescue unit (USAR) was held in Colchester for prospective members to find out about the team's role and capabilities.

By Roddy Ashworth

EXPERIENCED firefighters are being sought to join a new highly specialised rescue squad being set up in Essex.

And on Saturday a recruitment open day for the Urban Search and Rescue unit (USAR) was held in Colchester for prospective members to find out about the team's role and capabilities.

The Essex-based squad will provide cover for the entire Eastern region, dealing with major incidents such as terrorist attacks, major floods and collapsed buildings.


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Members of USAR, who will be based in new premises in Lexden, will receive expert training in locating survivors, the use of all-terrain vehicles, shoring up dangerous structures and dealing with major road accidents.

The group is being established in response to the Government's recent Fire Services Act and the Civil Contingencies Act, which both made search and rescue a core function of the fire service.

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It will be one of 17 such teams across the country and will be deployable locally, regionally or nationally, Assistant Divisional Officer Rudy Jackson explained.

Mr Jackson, who is the USAR manager for Essex, said the unit would be based in Lexden where a special compound would be built near the existing fire service workshops.

This would contain specialist training rigs as well as providing a home for three transporters that would carry five rescue “modules”, each of which would contain equipment for different types of emergency.

“It is a whole new concept within the fire service,” Mr Jackson said. “We are recruiting members from the fire service, both full-time and retained.

“It is not a normal fire station set-up, and we will not fight fires, because it wouldn't be possible to keep people trained in both fire-fighting and urban rescue.

“They will get specialist training in locating victims, and working in collapsed buildings and voids.

“There will be two crews based here, providing 24-hour-a-day cover for Essex and the region.”

He added he was pleased with the number of firefighters and their families who had come to find out about the unit and see demonstrations of the equipment that will be used.

Around 60 people attended the recruitment open day and had expressed interest in the new team, he said.

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