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In training with the firefighting experts

PUBLISHED: 11:00 16 November 2011 | UPDATED: 11:21 16 November 2011

Urban Search and Rescue Team taking on a rope training excercise at Colman's Tower.Photo : Steve Adams

Urban Search and Rescue Team taking on a rope training excercise at Colman's Tower.Photo : Steve Adams

Archant 2011

Rescuing people from cold deep water in the middle of the night to climbing down ropes and saving people from collapsed buildings and deep ravines - these are just some of the situations faced by a team of expert firefighters.

Norfolk’s Urban Search and Rescue unit (USAR), which was established in 2006 in response to America’s 9/11 disaster, carried out their most recent rope training exercise at the new Carrow fire station, near Trowse.

Scott Field, 39, of Hingham, who is a technician for the USAR red watch, said: “It was based on the USAR teams in the states because they had to deal with a catastrophic incident (9/11) and our government thought about what would happen if something similar happened in the UK.”

The county’s USAR team, based in Dereham, takes part in regular training exercises each year. They also abseiled down 100ft silos at Norwich’s Colman’s factory and practised a night time water rescue at Leziate, near King’s Lynn.

As well as the red watch, the county’s USAR team, which is part of the Norfolk fire service, has a blue watch and on-call team.

All the members for these units have to be fully qualified firefighters and help with serious road traffic collisions, involving lorries, trains and planes, rope and water rescues, flooding, people trapped in confined spaces, land and water searches and animal rescues.

Currently there are 20 USAR teams across England and Wales – in East Anglia there is also a team in Essex.

Funded by central government, Norfolk’s team has more than £1m worth of specialist equipment at its base, as well as a trained dog called Hooky and two rescue boats.

There are 14 full time firefighters, in red and blue watch, and 16 on call technicians. A large majority of the USAR team are also retained firefighters.

James Little, 30, of Long Stratton, has been a USAR technician in the red watch for two years.

“We provide an extra element to what the fire service can already do. With our capabilities we can enhance the role of the fire service.

“We (the emergency services) have got a common goal of making people safe and saving lives. That is why we do the job,” he said.

The technician, added that being part of the USAR team was “brilliant”.

Formerly based at Wymondham, the Norfolk team has not been called to any emergencies out of the county but was called to a crash between a train and a tractor at Saddlebow, near King’s Lynn, in September this year.

Mr Field said: “Times are changing as far as the type of calls we (the fire service) get. Fires are becoming less and less. We are getting more road traffic collisions.”

But Glen Roskilly, Norfolk’s USAR red watch crew manager, added that its members do not go on jobs to take over, only to offer support to the fire service and other emergency services.

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