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Essex firefighters train in Kosovo as part of UK International Search and Rescue

Two Essex County Fire and Rescue Service firefighters have recently completed training in Kosovo as part of the UK International Search and Rescue (UKISAR) team.

Crew Manager Darren Woodward, who is based with the Urban Search and Rescue team in Lexden, and Rob Wingar, a Firefighter at Chelmsford Fire Station, spent five days on a military training site.

Tasks included breaking through concrete to reach casualties trapped underground, carrying out large-scale searches and rescuing people from buildings.

Darren said: “The exercise simulated the aftermath of an earthquake and we were deployed for 90 hours straight. Rob and I were in charge of firefighters from Merseyside, Great Manchester and Kent Fire and Rescue Services.

“It was hard work. We were working on one site from 7am to 9pm, had a break and then we were back out at midnight searching train carriages.

“We are trained and have the equipment to be self-sufficient for 14 days, with our own tents and food and water supplies, so we don’t put pressure on the local infrastructure.”

UKISAR responds to international disasters on behalf of the UK Government and also supports other countries to develop search and rescue skills.

Essex County Fire and Rescue Service has been a part of the organisation since it was formed in 1993 and is one of 15 fire and rescue services which contribute personnel, who all volunteer their time, and equipment.

UKISAR has to go through a regrading process every five years to maintain its status as a United Nations “heavy team”, which means it can be sent to a disaster zone anywhere in the world.

The team is split into two rotas with each being on immediate standby for four months at a time. They have carried out missions across the globe, including in Turkey, Bosnia, Indonesia, Haiti, New Zealand, Japan and Nepal.

Darren, who has been a member of UKISAR for two-and-a-half years, said: “The training was tough. The temperature was in the high 20s Celsius during the day and dropped to single figures overnight.

“But it was a really good learning experience. We got to test the latest equipment, including an invention by Dr Malcolm Russell, to help identify if trapped casualties are still alive by measuring CO2 levels.

“All of these experiences can be brought back into our Service and our Urban Search and Rescue team.”

 

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