Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS) have completed construction of a network of modular chambers that are the first of their kind in the entire country. The training aid sees a number of pods connected by 180ft of concrete pipework that are then covered in rubble.

The huge structure simulates the scene of a real-life disaster and snakes through the training yard at the TWFRS Training Centre located at their Headquarters site in Barmston Mere, Washington. It will be used by the Service’s Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team, to hone and maintain their specialist skills.

TWFRS Chief Fire Officer, Chris Lowther, said it showed the Service’s investment in firefighter safety and how crews respond to a disaster. He said: “Our USAR teams are highly skilled and will have responsibility for extracting casualties if we have to respond to a collapsed building.

“This state-of-the-art training aid allows us to simulate that type of disaster and offers realistic training for those specialist crews. Investment in this type of facility is vitally important to maintain our skills and ensure the safety of our crews if an incident of this nature does take place.

“But it should also reassure our communities here in Tyne and Wear that some of the most highly trained specialists will respond if they ever need them in a crisis.”

USAR teams will use the network by crawling through the pipes and breaking through slabs of concrete or steel that have been slid into each of the modular chambers. They will then have to make their way through the 180ft network of piping that has been covered in tonnes of concrete rubble.

The pipework also links in with the existing USAR structures enabling instructors to plan and deliver a wider range of scenarios which will provide for a more challenging experience for technicians.

Voids have also been built within the rubble to ensure the TWFRS USAR Dog Team can test their capability and respond in a crisis.

For further information about the work of Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service please visit: www.twfire.gov.uk.