GUIDANCE FOR BRIGADES CONCERNING
INTERIM URBAN SEARCH & RESCUE
ARRANGEMENTS WITHIN ENGLAND,
WALES AND NORTHERN IRELAND
2.0 USAR System – a vision
2.2 Structures & hazards
2.4 Training and development for Operational Responders
2.5 Training and development for Command
3.0 Planning for Urban Search & Rescue
4.0 The Interim Arrangements
4.1 Brigades forming the First Tranche
4.2 Brigades identified as part of Subsequent Tranches
4.3 Other operational resources
Appendix ‘A’ – Equipment cache for USAR Units
Appendix ‘B’ – Arrangements for requesting USAR assistance
Appendix ‘C’ – Location of Interim USAR Units
Appendix ‘D’ – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
INTERIM ARRANGEMENTS for URBAN SEARCH & RESCUE
This paper builds on the advice from HM Fire Service Inspectorate offered to
brigades in October 2001 and January 2002 concerning calls for the assistance of the
United Kingdom Fire Service Search and Rescue Team.
Since that time the New Dimension Urban Search & Rescue Project Team have been
seeking to develop an enhanced USAR response. The terms of reference for the New
Dimension USAR Project Team are:
“To develop a system to ensure that the UK Fire Service is sufficiently prepared to be
able to respond in an Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) capacity to all incidents,
including those beyond the normal response of a brigade. To identify resources
required for this purpose and to manage the conception, design and implementation
of appropriate Urban Search and Rescue facilities, procedures and training.”
2.0 USAR System – a Vision
To assist brigades in visualising USAR response as it will be developed and to put
into context the interim USAR arrangements, the USAR Project Team have sought to
create a vision of the overall USAR system.
The vision created by the Project Team will see a USAR system that reflects
the levels of response within the service, already identified in other areas of
the New Dimension (ND) Programme, namely;
Level 1 – First responding appliances.
Level 2 – Brigade-wide response following ‘make-up’.
Level 3 – Response invoking Section 2 and Section 12 arrangements.
Level 4 – Regional or National response.
Level 1 response will be limited to pumping appliances, whilst Level 2 would
see the additional response of specialist appliances from within the brigade
where the incident occurred. A Level 3 response would include the attendance
of reinforcing pumps and special appliances from neighbouring brigades. A
Level 4 response will include large numbers of personnel and equipment from
within the affected CACFOA region or from other regions in attendance over
an extended period of time.
2.2 Structures and Hazards
The response system will also recognise that the hazards and complexity of a
structural collapse vary according to the type of structure(s) affected. The
Project Team has developed a framework that reflects the increasing
demands on a search and rescue organisation caused by different structure
types, these are:
Category I – Light Structures
Category II – Medium Structures
Category III – Heavy Structures
These categories are reflected in international standards formulated by the
United Nations Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG) and operated
by urban search and rescue responders in Europe, USA and Australia.
Examples of these categories are as follows:
2.2.1 Category I – Light Structures
The capability to conduct safe and effective urban search and rescue
operations during collapse structure incidents involving the collapse or
failure of structures of light-frame or traditional (un-reinforced
2.2.2 Category II – Medium Structures
The capability to conduct safe and effective search and rescue
operations at structure collapse incidents involving the collapse or
failure of heavy timber, reinforced masonry, and modular
2.2.3 Category III – Heavy Structures
The basic capability to conduct safe and effective search and rescue
operations at structure collapse incidents involving the collapse or
failure of reinforced concrete or steel-frame construction.
The Project Team require a system where the equipment; types, quantities
and allocation, will reflect the levels of response.
Similarly, different categories of structures (Light, Medium and Heavy)
involved will require increasingly powerful and sophisticated equipment in
order that an effective response can be made without a corresponding
increase in the risk to firefighters. The training requirements will also increase
in line with the complexity and sophistication of the equipment.
2.4 Training and Development for Operational Responders
The Project Team recommend that all operational responders receive training
and information concerning a response to collapsed structure incidents, that
is appropriate to their role. Additionally, the system recognises that there will
be varying categories of responder, each requiring a specific level of skill and
These categories are as follows:
Category I – Light Urban Search and Rescue
Category II – Medium Urban Search & Rescue
Category III – Heavy Urban Search & Rescue
Category IV – Urban Search & Rescue Advisor
Training and development for these categories will be based on national and
international operating procedures. Training and development will be linked to
the national role maps and be integral with and form part of the Integrated
Personnel Development System (IPDS).
2.5 Training and Development for Command
The Project Team has identified a training and development need for
personnel with command responsibilities at USAR incidents that is appropriate
to their role. A model recommended by the Project Team has 3 levels of USAR
Training and development will again be linked to the national role maps and
be integral with and form part of the Integrated Personnel Development
To conclude, this paper identifies that a considerable period of time will be
required to introduce a comprehensive USAR system into the UK Fire
Service. In view of the current and foreseeable risk levels it is imperative
that interim arrangements are provided to ensure that an adequate
response capability is available throughout this development period. This
paper defines these interim arrangements, which are based on the current
planning assumptions of the New Dimension Urban Search and Rescue
3.0 Planning for Urban Search & Rescue
The Project Team’s planning assumptions have been based on the possibility of
multiple incidents occurring within a single fire authority, or a single incident beyond
the capability of an individual fire authority or a combination of both.
The Project Team have concluded that the interim capability must include the
mobilisation and attendance of USAR trained responders and equipment suitable and
sufficient for the search and rescue of persons trapped within the debris of collapsed
heavy reinforced concrete or steel framed structures (i.e. the worst-case scenario).
In addition, sufficient resources must also be available to attend a second or
subsequent incident occurring anywhere within the UK.
4.0 The Interim Arrangements
On 16 December 2002 the Minister authorised interim funding to a total of £**m.
The funding allowed for a certain level of equipment and training provision. The
interim funds are therefore being used to provide a first tranche of:
• Twenty-five units of USAR equipment (see Appendix ‘A’)
• The lease of sufficient vehicles to transport this equipment
• Initial training for operational responders
Funds have been allocated to the provision of initial USAR training facilities at the
Fire Service College.
As this funding is insufficient to provide for all brigades, it was decided to
concentrate resources based on identified risk and geographical coverage and also to
build on the existing USAR capabilities provided by UK Fire Services Search and
Rescue Team (UKFSSART). It has therefore been decided that whilst the provision,
detailed above, will form the national response and will be available to all brigades,
the first tranche of equipment, vehicles and training will be provided to the following:
• 1 unit to each UKFSSART Brigade (12 in England & Wales)
• 1 unit to the CACFOA North East Region (no UKFSSART brigade)
• 1 unit to the CACFOA South West Region (no UKFSSART brigade)
• 3 units to London Fire Brigade
• 1 unit to Northern Ireland Fire Brigade
In addition, 3 units will be allocated to the Fire Service College and 2 further units
will be held as a strategic reserve at the ODPM facility at Marchington.
Brigades should also be aware that under separate arrangements Scotland will be
provided with 3 USAR Units. These will be positioned in Strathclyde Fire Brigade,
Lothian and Borders Fire Brigade and Grampian Fire Brigade. Details of the location
of USAR Units are included in Appendix ‘C’.
4.1 Brigades forming part of the first tranche
Brigades identified under the Interim Arrangements will receive:
• USAR equipment as per Appendix ‘A’.
• One USAR vehicle per each unit of equipment – a 7.5 tonne box van with a
manual gearbox, tail lift and two crew seats (driver + one).
• Suitable and sufficient training to allow the vehicle and equipment to be
These Brigades will be asked to provide:
• Crewing arrangements to support the deployment of the USAR units
(minimum of 5 responders per unit).
• Suitable transport arrangements to support the deployment of the USAR
• Suitable location for the USAR vehicle (preferably under cover).
• Mobilising arrangements.
• Arrangements for the release of personnel for training.
• Arrangements for the release of personnel for extended deployment.
4.2 Brigades identified as part of subsequent tranches
It is vital that brigades receiving USAR resources as part of subsequent
tranches continue to plan for large-scale structural collapse incidents. These
brigades will need to be aware of the interim USAR arrangements, and must
consider the following:
• Trigger-points and types of incident where the national USAR
arrangements may be invoked.
• How to request support through the national USAR arrangements (these
arrangements are detailed in Appendix ‘B’).
• The capability of the USAR Units.
• The provision of support facilities required by the USAR Units.
Brigades also need to consider the arrangements that will be put into place
once the USAR capability is delivered to them. This should include
• USAR team selection
• Location of the USAR vehicle
• Mobilising methods
4.3 Other operational resources
As part of the Interim Arrangements, HMFSI is developing a database of
resources that may be required at the scene of operations of a major
structural collapse. This database will be based on the templates developed
by the New Dimension Regional Implementation Teams and, as such, will be
linked to a GIS system. Examples of resources on the database include;
search dog teams, crane and lifting contractors, structural specialists etc.
Brigades requiring such resources will be able to access them through the
call-out arrangements detailed in Appendix ‘B’.
More detailed advice and guidance concerning the implementation of the Interim
USAR Arrangements has been included in the form of ‘Frequently Asked Questions’
(FAQs) and these can be found in Appendix ‘D’.
Information concerning the complete USAR Implementation Strategy for the Fire
Service within England, Wales and Northern Ireland, of which the Interim
Arrangements are only one part, is due to be published shortly by the Office of the
Deputy Prime Minister.
EQUIPMENT CACHE FOR EACH USAR UNIT ISSUED UNDER THE INTERIM ARRANGEMENTS. Appendix ‘A’
Item of Equipment
Search camera (advanced) 1 Search Cam
Search camera (basic) 1 Snake Eye
Life detector 1 Delsar
Victim Locator – communications 1 Con-Space Communications
Hammer/Breaker Drill 2 Hilti TE76 (ATC)– rotary impact drill – 110 volt
Metal Shoring Kit 1 set Paratech – temporary shoring equipment
Timber Cutting Workstations 1 including De Walt circular saw DW383L (110v), Double Bevel Mitre Saw DW708L
(110v), Mitre Saw Workstation DE7023, 2 Framing Nailers (Round Head) D51845
and Electric Hand Compressors D55155.
Concrete cutting and breaking 1 set Stanley Hydraulic Set (including Power pack HP90, heavy breaker drill BR67
equipment (vibro dampened), chipper drill CH15, cut-off saw CO25, and concrete saw DS11
110 volt Generator – 6KW 1
110 volt Generator – 3KW 1
Scene Lighting 4 sets Clark Masts – (incl. mast and triple head lamp unit)
High Pressure Air Bags 1 set Zumro NT Bags – set of 6 (2 x 132 tonne, 2 x 58 tonne, 2 x 23 tonne +
Hilti DD 130 Coring drill 1 Diamond tipped coring drills 40 mm, 52mm, 62mm
(+ 32mm training bits)
Hilti PS 20 cable/rebar detector 1 Electric cables, ferrous rebar, and copper pipes
Fischer Fixing Kit 1 set 40mm concrete anchors + drill bit, setting tool, and eyebolts
Includes training items
ARRANGEMENTS FOR REQUESTING URBAN SEARCH & RESCUE ASSISTANCE
WITHIN THE UNITED KINGDOM.
Levels of Response
1. Advice by telephone.
2. The attendance of an advisor to support the Incident Commander in any structural
3. The attendance of specific urban search and rescue resources, e.g. search dogs,
acoustic/seismic search, breaking and breaching structural concrete, temporary shoring
4. The attendance of USAR Units that are capable of searching for, location and rescue of
casualties trapped within the debris of collapsed heavy reinforced concrete or steel
Capability available to UK Brigades as part of the Interim USAR Arrangements
Urban Search and Rescue in collapsed buildings/structures including:
• Acoustic/seismic search equipment
• Search cameras
• Concrete drilling, cutting and breaking equipment
• Communication probes
• Electrical power and lighting equipment
• Heavy-duty shoring equipment
• Heavy-duty lifting with air bags
• Provision of search dogs
Call out arrangements
The London Fire Brigade’s Command Support Centre (who are responsible for the
mobilisation and co-ordination of the national USAR Units and for notifying appropriate
authorities and organisations) should be telephoned on:
020 **** ****
Brigades should be prepared to provide the following information:
• Information on the incident such as, scale and nature of the incident,
• What is involved – building or structure type,
• Resources required,
• Rendezvous point and nearest available suitable helicopter landing area (this should be
carried out in collaboration with the local police force), and,
• Any other relevant information.
All subsequent communications should be passed via the LFB Command Support Centre.
THE INTENDED LOCATION OF INTERIM URBAN SEARCH AND RESCUE UNITS
IN THE UK
Urban Search & Rescue Units will be developed in the following locations:
London – Essex – Kent – West Sussex – Hampshire – South Wales – Mid and West Wales –
West Midlands – Leicestershire – Lincolnshire – Cheshire – Greater Manchester – Lancashire
– Northern Ireland – Strathclyde – Lothian and Borders – Grampian.
In addition, Interim Urban Search and Rescue Units will go to the North East and South
West CACFOA Regions at locations yet to be determined.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQ)
Q: What are the planning assumptions for the mobilisation of the USAR Units?
A: Co-ordination of mobilising will be determined by national co-ordination arrangements
based on existing UKFSSART deployment arrangements. USAR Units will be expected to
mobilise as soon as possible but within 2 hours of the initial notification. A minimum of 5
personnel will mobilise, including an identified crew/watch commander, when proceeding as
part of mutual assistance arrangements to other brigades. The interim USAR Arrangements
will provide for 5 USAR Units to attend a major incident immediately and this offers a
minimum of 25 USAR responders at the incident. Additional resources, to be determined by
the national co-ordination arrangements, will be placed on stand-by in order to provide
round-the-clock working and resilience.
Q: Who can drive these USAR vehicles?
A: A 7.5 tonne vehicle with a manual gearbox has been selected because it gives the
greatest scope for Fire Service drivers. A recent change in the law regarding vehicle
categories requires Brigades to ensure that their drivers possess the relevant license.
Q: Who has operational control over these USAR Units?
A: The role of the USAR Units is to provide specialist support for the Incident Commander at
a structural collapse incident. The intention is that they will fit seamlessly within the
Incident Command System and supervisory support will be mobilised via the national co-
ordination arrangements to assist in this process.
Q: What about the crewing and transport arrangements for the USAR Units?
A: The USAR Units will deploy with a minimum of 5 responders per unit. Whilst no
maximum crewing is recommended, brigades must consider maintaining USAR resilience for
a second or subsequent incident within their own region. Brigades will need to consider the
arrangements necessary to convey the USAR vehicle, any additional support vehicles and
personal equipment to the scene of operations. Alternatives may include:
Personnel carrying vehicle (PCV)
4 WD or similar
The details of how the USAR vehicle, equipment and responders are transported to the
incident are best left to the discretion of brigades. Further advice concerning the marking of
the interim vehicles and the provision of sirens/horns and blue lights will be available
shortly. It is considered that a minimum of 5 personnel is required to operate the
equipment provided on the USAR vehicle. However, only 2 personnel can travel on the
vehicle. Depending on how and where the interim vehicle is deployed, Brigades may need to
consider the best method of transporting both the vehicle and the personnel.
Q: What would be the length of time of a deployment under the Interim
A: It is difficult to be precise about this, as the circumstances pertaining at the time will
have an influence on this decision. However, Brigades will need to consider that it is
possible that responders will need to be deployed for extended periods of time (a planning
assumption is for 7 days) and make appropriate welfare and relief arrangements.
Q: Can Brigades use these USAR Units internally at other types of incident?
A: Yes. Mobilisation and crewing in these situations would be at the discretion of the host
brigade and any costs incurred would have to be met at a local level.
Q: Can the brigade expand and develop the equipment package as supplied by the
A: No. Each USAR vehicle will only carry the equipment package as supplied by the ND
project as it is considered essential that this remains a “standard package”. Additional
items will be added by the ODPM and a process to evaluate and procure any equipment,
outside of this standard package, will be put in place in the future. It is the intention that
this process will involve the brigades participating in the Interim Arrangements.
Brigades should note that contractual arrangements regarding the provision of this
equipment to Brigades are still to be agreed – a New Dimension working group is dealing
with this issue.
Q: What will be the standards for Personal Protective Equipment and clothing for
personnel crewing the Interim USAR Units?
A: In the absence of an appropriate UK or European standard, Brigades will have to
undertake a suitable and sufficient risk assessment to determine the appropriate levels of
PPE and RPE for personnel responding under the Interim USAR Arrangements. Best-practice
is found in the national UKFSSART standard and in the NFPA 1951 document for urban
search and rescue. HMFSI will support this process with guidance and advice. Brigades will
need to consider arrangements to ensure sufficient PPE is available for extended USAR
operations. In the longer-term outline standards and framework agreements will be set up
from which brigades can select their preferred PPE.
Q: What are the provisions for communications?
A: Brigades must ensure that suitable 24/7 mobilising and communication arrangements
are in place to ensure initial alert notification and subsequent information can be passed to
responders. Suitable communications will be provided in order that continuous contact with
the USAR Units and responders can be maintained once they have mobilised.
Q: In the event of a deployment, who pays?
A: Costs incurred as result of catastrophic incidents (COBRA invoked) will be reimbursed
through arrangements already agreed as part of the New Dimension Project.
Q: What are the Training and Development implications and arrangements?
A: It is the intention that all responders will receive suitable training in order to provide a
safe system of work. The New Dimensions Project will meet the cost of this training. A
planning assumption is for up to 100 hours training per person. Funded training will, at this
time, only be available for those personnel with the role of responder under the Interim
Arrangements. Due to the current industrial situation it is difficult to determine a firm
timetable for training, however planning for training is at an advanced stage and will involve
training opportunities at a number of venues.
Brigades will be requested to maintain a list of all personnel available for response on the
USAR Units and this should include the maintenance of training records. Further information
concerning USAR training, including planning for training detachments, will be promulgated
as soon as possible.
Q: Will Brigades have to insure, maintain, repair and inspect the vehicles and
equipment supplied under these Interim Arrangements?
A: These issues, and the legal implications of such an arrangement, are still being
considered by a New Dimension working party. Advice and guidance on these issues will be
available prior to the equipment and vehicles being delivered into brigades.
Q: If I have further questions concerning the Interim USAR Arrangements, where
can I go to obtain the answers?
A: Please contact the New Dimensions Urban Search and Rescue Project Team at HM FireService Inspectorate.