International training for Hampshire and Isle of Wight search and rescue firefighters

Team of highly-skilled firefighters have taken part in a number of specialist exercises this year across the globe.

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22/09/2022 1:45pm


Hampshire & Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service

Members of the Service’s Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) unit, which was one of the founding members of the UK International Search and Rescue team, regularly participate in scenarios around the world to prepare for an emergency response to natural disasters.

In March, firefighter Spencer Harrison from Eastleigh Fire Station was deployed as part of a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) to a cold weather training scenario in Kosovo, before a five-man USAR crew were mobilised to the south-east European country in May.

Crew Manager Simon Whelan along with firefighters Chris Ammundsen, Chris Dean, Steve Fox and Steve Hartley made up the HIWFRS team joining around 70 USAR specialists participating in a search and rescue exercise.

Back in June more Hampshire and Isle of Wight firefighters travelled overseas to play their part in a training scenario which simulated an earthquake in Singapore.

Watch Manager Robin Bates was joined by Barry Atkins, Dan Eves and Josh Chandler as they left Gatwick Airport for Asia, where they set up a Base of Operations for rescuers to work from as they responded to ship rescues, collapsed buildings and car park floods.

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The HIWFRS group ahead of their journey to Singapore.

Robin Bates said:

“Deployed as a team of four, we were tasked with setting up and running the base of operations where rescue teams would live and work from throughout the week.

“It was a successful exercise with lots of learning shared and opportunities for improvement identified.

“We were well looked after by our Singaporean hosts as we experienced their culture.

“Shields were exchanged between international teams at the end of the week to celebrate the strong relationships that we had forged.”

Working alongside the West Midlands FRS command and the London Fire logistics teams, as well as their Singaporean counterparts and rescue dogs, the HIWFRS team provided a base for more than 40 people throughout the week at the Academy Training Centre.

In November, UK-ISAR teams will head to both Portugal and Switzerland for more training opportunities, before hosting a large exercise next year to maintain their certification with the United Nations.

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ISAR members from across the world took part in the exercise in Singapore.

Robin Bates added:

“We were one of the founding members of UK-ISAR back in 1993 and in that time we have played a part in responses to places such as Bangladesh and Nepal.

“In order to maintain our UN certification we are required to host a large exercise every four years.

“Planning is already underway for the scenario taking place in 2023 where we will welcome teams from other countries to take part.”

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The firefighters were faced with various scenarios such as a collapsed building.

Find out more about the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service Urban Search and Rescue team on our website or follow them on Twitter.

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