Essex County Fire and Rescue Service


John uses his know how to make sure teams are ready

One of the Service’s dog handlers has been using his skills and experience to help make sure that rescue teams across the world are ready to play their part in international rescue efforts.

John Ball is one of only very few fully qualified UK search and rescue dog assessors and since he qualified in that role in 2010 he has travelled all around the world helping to make sure that rescue teams are ready to join international efforts in countries which have suffered a disaster.

John has used the skills he has gained as part of both the Service’s Urban Search and Rescue Team and the UK International Search and Rescue teams to help make sure that other countries have teams in place to deal with major disasters.

Recently he has been in Qatar where he even met the Prime Minister as part of a global team there to make sure the middle-eastern country’s rescue team met international requirements.

Before that John’s work as an assessor for the United Nation’s International Search and Rescue Advisory Group has taken him to Japan, Austria, the Netherlands, Oman, Jordan and France.

John explained: “So that teams from around the world can work together at major disasters we all work to the same standards and use the same qualification systems. Every team throughout the world is assessed by the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group, which is part of the UN.

“I got my qualification through the work I do with the International Rescue Dogs Organisation, a charity organisation where I am currently the Deputy Spokesperson for Deployment. They fund the trips I make as an assessor, covering all travel and accommodation expenses.

“My role sees me going and assessing both their dog teams and their technical rescue skills to make sure they are operating at an international standard and giving feedback both positive and offering advice for improvement.”

John has been working with Darcy as a search and rescue team since 2005 and in that time they have attended major incidents both overseas and in the UK, including a house collapse in Clacton. They were the first dog team from the UK to pass the International Rescue Dog Organisation (IRO) Mission Readiness Test (MRT) in 2008 and became the IRO MRT dog team leader the following year.

“When I started working to become a search and rescue dog handler I didn’t imagine it would lead to anything like this,” John said. “I am now part of an international team working with assessors from all over the world and helping make sure that teams are all ready to help after the worst has happened.

“We come from different countries have different backgrounds and different ranks but the one thing everyone I meet as an assessor has in common is that we are all working to help people and that is something I am proud to be a part of.”

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