Officers from Tyne & Wear Fire & Rescue Service have become the first in the North East to achieve specialist qualifications in the assessment of structures.

TWFRS played a pivotal role in the creation of the course which tests firefigthers knowledge of Urban Search and Rescue and the three members of the Service's USAR team, Station Manager Colin Bowman, Watch Manager Barry Holder and Watch Manager Jim Taylor were the first to accept the challenge.

All three are members of the Service's Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team which provide specialist rescue capabilities for victims trapped in confined spaces as result of natural disasters, structural collapse, transport accidents and terrorist attacks.

Group Manager Derek Smith said: "Developing this qualification, along with colleagues at Teesside University is a first for our Service and we're very proud to have been instrumental in establishing it. 

"Passing the course was also a huge achievement for the staff involved.  There's no doubt that it will contribute to the safety the public involved in USAR incidents and will be invaluable to our staff when they are involved in these rescues."

The bespoke qualification was designed to improve the level of understanding of buildings and structures thus enabling USAR teams to carry out basic calculations to determine the load path of buildings, helping to identify where buildings are likely to be structurally unsafe during complicated rescues.

It will also aid their communication with structural specialists such as members of the Health and Safety Executive, building contractors and local authority engineers at incidents.

Dr Steve Bloomer of Teesside University added: "Working in collaboration with the USAR team at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service has resulted in a bespoke course which meets the needs of this specialist area.

"The course aims to develop the students' understanding of the various building techniques used in domestic and commercial construction as well as more specialist structures also it gives them the skills necessary for simple analysis of forces on structures."

So far, 15 USAR team members from across the UK have attended the course at Teesside and it is now nationally recognised by the National Resilience Assurance Team (NRAT) as a desired qualification for USAR Subject Matter Advisors.

Watch Virginia Beach Chief Steven Cover discuss international USAR capabilities

Posted 27/04/2012 by