Volunteers attend high level specialist training exercise

published on 29 Jun 2021

Salvation Army volunteers manned the church and charity’s new emergency vehicle at a National Resilience Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) training exercise hosted at the service headquarters of Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service.

The vehicle is one of 21 emergency vans which attend incidents to support blue-light services, offering a space for emergency crews to decompress during tough incidents as well as provide support, refreshments and a listening ear.

The two-day exercise by the National Resilience USAR featured a series of incident simulations aimed at comparing differing types of specialist response to a range of challenging scenarios, relevant to USAR operations. This event was held to support a Home Office project exploring how Urban Search and Rescue can develop for the future.

It also gave an opportunity to Salvation Army volunteers to prepare to respond during a major multi-agency incident.

The Salvation Army supports emergency workers at high level exercise
Emergency workers enjoy refreshments and support from Salvation Army volunteers during a high level training exercise in Washington, Tyne and Wear

Chaplain Julie Judson (Swan Lodge Lifehouse, Sunderland) led the team of Salvation Army volunteers over the two-day exercise. She said: “Across England and Scotland, The Salvation Army supports blue-light services, offering space for emergency workers to decompress during tough incidents as well as  refreshments and a listening ear. Not only did we once again see our local services in action today but we’re reminded of the way we work alongside them with partner agencies to protect our communities and see them thrive.”

Nearly 150 operational crews and USAR specialists, along with representatives from other regional and national organisations gathered at Barmston Mere Training Centre in Washington, Tyne and Wear.

The different ‘real life’ scenarios that were tackled during the recent USAR exercise used cutting edge rescue techniques and specialist equipment. The intention was for the various teams to work together to resolve the situations and learn from how they approached the incidents.

The scenarios included:

  • two collapsed structures -  a car park and a block of flats;
  • transport – rescuing people trapped in a train after an explosion and a separate incident with a coach vehicle;
  • ‘at height incident’ – a situation with a pylon; and investigating confined space - short and long travel distance.
Emergency workers decompress with Salvation Army during training exercise
Emergency workers take a break during a training exercise at the Salvation Army rest area

Chris Lowther, Chief Fire Officer for Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, said: “We were proud to welcome the National Resilience team to the region and for Tyne and Wear to host such an important and significant event. It provided the Service with an opportunity to showcase its own Urban Search and Rescue skills that are present in the area.

“Our 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, has gone from strength to strength.

“USAR services can be faced with complex rescue operations within a hazardous environment. Incidents experience shows that people are often found alive many hours and days after rescue operations commence, and the corresponding services should be planned accordingly.

“This event was all part of that planning, not just for now but looking to the future as we continue to work together to ensure the safety of our communities and that of the wider community.

“Today prepares us all for tomorrow’s unknown.”

Salvation Army Officer having a cup of tea with a resident at one of our lifehouses

Support our work

Help us to continue to be there for people in their hour of need.