Six firefighters from Kent Fire and Rescue Service’s (KFRS) Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team returned from Germany at the weekend with smiles on their faces, after receiving high praise from the United Nation’s International Search And Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG).
The team from Kent, together with 63 other personnel from fire and rescue services around the UK, including London and Hampshire, took part in a training exercise and represented the United Kingdom’s International Search and Rescue (UKISAR). The UKISAR team delivers the service for the UK Government and is on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to respond to an accident or disaster anywhere in the world. Most incidents take place in countries less able to cope with the huge demands placed upon the local emergency services so they need international assistance. Most recently the team was deployed to Haiti following the earthquake in 2010 and a year later to Japan after the Tsunami struck.
The aim of the weekend’s exercise in Germany was to gain re-classification to enable the UK to continue to form part of the international search and rescue operations across the world. The team from the UK gained the highest ever grade achieved with six areas of best practice. The result puts the UK amongst the best ISAR teams in the world.
Jim Chaston, Technical Rescue Crew Manager from KFRS said: "It was such a privilege to be amongst the best search and rescue personnel in the world. We were really put through our paces and tested in some very tough scenarios."
The scenario the teams faced was a simulated hurricane – Isabella that had struck a ‘mock’ country called The Republic of Azuria, with wind speeds of 195km per hour. UKISAR were deployed alongside colleagues from other countries including Spain and The Czech Republic. The UK team was involved in all aspects of technical rescue including chainsaw cutting, rope rescue, heavy lifting and breaking through concrete structures to rescue the mock casualties, caught up in the hurricane.
Jim added: "To be part of a team from the UK to gain the best ever re-classification mark is such a superb feeling. To say we’re amongst the best in the world is quite something, however we are just a part of a bigger operation. When we are needed we all play our part - that is the most important thing when it comes to saving lives and assisting in humanitarian efforts."
KFRS Chief Executive, Ann Millington said: "This result is a true reflection of the individuals who make up the team. To have representatives from Kent Fire and Rescue Service is a thing to be extremely proud of, and goes a long way to offer greater reassurance to the people of Kent and Medway that our fire service has very high standards. KFRS has provided personnel to the UK’s international search and rescue efforts since its first deployment to the Armenian earthquake in 1988. I would like to congratulate the entire UKISAR team, it's a fantastic accomplishment."