Essex County Fire and Rescue Service


Fire service Urban Search and Rescue train with the Army

Essex County Fire and Rescue Service’s Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) has spent four days carrying out a training exercise with the Army. 

Organised by ECFRS’s Crew Manager Antony Clement, the exercise, named Tower Descent 21, saw the fire service join forces with 1 Troop 15 Field Squadron, 35 Engineer Regiment, based at Carver Barracks in Wimbish.

The first two days were spent at the Army base. USAR colleagues set up fall arrest systems and a cable way on the Army’s tower for personnel to climb before being lowered to the ground.

The third and fourth days were spent at USAR’s station in Lexden, Colchester. The first exercise saw the USAR team lower Army personnel into the search area and retrieve them afterwards. A second search task took place in a confined space filled with water.

Further activities saw USAR’s rope supervisors lower soldiers backwards over a tower before helping them swing upside down. The final activity was a medical emergency in a confined space.

Crew Manager Clement said: “One of the highlights was the feedback I received from both services. Our crews talked about the soldiers’ discipline, respect and trust their officers’ orders and how they carry out their tasks with 100% commitment regardless of how challenging it seems.

“The Army personnel didn’t realise how diverse our specialist roles are, how skilled and knowledgeable the USAR technicians are and how we work as a team in such a dedicated and professional way.

“Working with other organisations is very much in the public’s interest, both financially and for the end result.

“All of our emergency services and the Army play a vital role in keeping people safe, and helping each other train and develop is a positive opportunity.”

1 Troop 15 Field Squadron and 35 Engineer Regiment, who support 29 Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Search Group, can be sent to support public organisations under the Military Aid to Civil Authorities (MACA) agreement.

They specialise in high assurance search, including looking for explosive devices, and can be sent anywhere in the world to secure ports and airports.

Crew Manager Clement added: “USAR and 1 Troop do a similar role in that we both search, one for casualties and the other for explosives, ammunition and drugs

“The Army has limited training facilities for hazardous environments, such as difficult access, confined spaces and areas with water hazards, so I am pleased we could offer this opportunity.”

The exercise was able to go ahead thanks to Covid-19 risk assessments and procedures being followed.

ECFRS’s Station Manager Scott Meekings said: “This was an excellent opportunity to highlight how well civil authorities and the military can support and work alongside one another.

“The success of this exercise will allow for future opportunities with other fire and rescue service capabilities and to potentially test our response to major incidents.”

Have you ever considered a role in the fire service?

There are so many different career paths firefighters can specialise in once they are fully competent, including USAR, Dog Hander and Fire Investigation Officer. 

Essex County Fire and Rescue Service is currently recruiting wholetime and on-call firefighters. To find out more visit

Page last updated 18 March, 2021

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