Historically, the UK Fire Service has been responding to disasters overseas for a number of years. London Fire Brigade responded to both the Mexico City (1985), and El Salvador (1986) earthquakes and teams from London, Kent and Hampshire attended the Armenian earthquake in December 1998. However these efforts remained largely uncoordinated and any actions rested with each individual brigade.
Following the Armenian earthquake it was recognised that some find form of organisational and control measures were required if a co-ordinated and effective system for overseas deployment was to be adopted. A letter to Chief Fire Officer s was subsequently circulated which set out basic guidelines for overseas deployments.
Cheshire Fire Service became involved with the Overseas Disaster Team, along with other emerging Fire Service teams, following the Middle East Gulf War of 1991.
A multidiscipline British team was deployed to Northern Iraq in May 1991 to assist with humanitarian aid for the Kurdish population. The Cheshire team members consisted of Len Jukes, John Pugh, Ian Scullion and John Goodrum. They were deployed for a period of 5 weeks and were involved in areas as diverse as humanitarian assistance, re-establishing of water supplies, administering First aid, assisting military personnel and personal welfare.
Following this deployment, it became widely recognised that a greater degree of national co-ordination and control were required as Chief Officers began to realise the importance of this growth area in Fire Service operations.
A further letter to Chief Fire Officer s was circulated, superseding the last, and with it was formed the foundations for today’s UKFSSART as we know it. This protocol went into far more detail than any previous correspondence and gave recommendations on areas such as:
Structure of UK Fire Service Search and Rescue Teams.
Selection of Team Members.
Selection of Field Commanders.
Co-ordination of response.
Supplies and Equipment.
There have been subsequent changes to the protocols that govern how UKFSSART operates over the years, all of which assist in guaranteeing a highly organised, suitably equipped, competently trained and totally professional Search & Rescue Team.
Search equipment – In Use by the team,…
Snake Eye Search Camera – A portable hand held, full colour screen, camera system. Designed to allow visual access to areas inaccessible to personnel, allowing a full search to be carried out of any void or compartment without the need to cut large access holes first. It comes supplied with various attachments such as; extension boom, flexible ‘goose neck’, finger attachment, cable extensions, spare batteries.
Hawkeye search borescope kit – Equipment designed to allow visual access to voids and compartments via extremely small access holes. Used in conjunction with the above.
Trapped Person Locator 310B (TPL) – This equipment is designed to locate trapped persons through the use of sound. It consists of a series of microphones and one speaker, these are attached to the control unit via co-axial cables. The control unit has a series of LED’s on the operator panel to allow the user to determine the direction of any sound picked up by the microphones. The microphones are sensitive enough to pick up the slightest breathing sounds of a casualty, even an unconscious person. The user dons a set of headphones and moves the microphones around the search area in a predetermined pattern so that any casualties can be located. The unit comes complete with a speaker phone so that communication with a casualty is possible once located.