Urban search and rescue training for Gibraltar fire fighters
The Gibraltar Fire and Rescue Service (GFRS) have been trained by UK specialists in how to rescue people from collapsed buildings, after a gap was spotted in training plans for Gibraltar’s fire fighters. A year and a half ago the GFRS identified a gap in their training that needed to be addressed and brought in expertise from the UK for a five day course, holding an exercise on Thursday, 21 February 2019. The urban search and rescue [USAR] training exercise saw the officers ‘save’ a man from being crushed after a building had collapsed at the Ministry of Defence’s Buffadero Training Area.
USAR involves the location, extraction and medical stabilisation of victims trapped in structural collapses due to natural disasters. The officers surveyed the area then quickly used the skills they had learnt this week to extract a dummy trapped underneath three concrete pipes.
Using high pressure air bags and wooden beams the officers moved the concrete structure careful not to cause more harm to the victim. The air bags can lift up to 20 tonnes and the team of 11 fire fighters including a scribe taking notes of the incident worked together to free the dummy.
Instructor in outreach Russ Vaughan, from North Wales, has been working with the GFRS. “We have been going through everything they needed to know of how to stabilise a situation and carry out primary surveys and searches,” Vaughan said. “This exercise was the end of that training week where they are putting together skills that they have learnt, such as surveying, searching, and recording of any casualties.” Vaughan commended the officers for their work over the past week and really coming to grips with USAR.
“From where we started on Monday with the guys really not having any training in urban search and rescue from what we have seen today just shows how dedicated they have been to the course,” Vaughan said. Moving forward, Vaughan said that added training should involve the officers learning how to get through reinforced concrete.
Head of Operations and Training GFRS Matthew Payas said that added training is to be expected. “We decided we had a training gap we needed to address so we looked potential training providers,” Payas said. “They are providing us with the capabilities to be able to deal with a collapsed structure incident for the first 24 hours of any incident.”
Civil Contingencies Coordinator Ivor Lopez attended the event and explained that this was part an assessment on the type of risk that can be expected to be dealt with in Gibraltar. “This is a question of making sure that the emergency services are equipped and trained, and able to work with each other,” Lopez said. “What we have seen today is the Gibraltar Fire and Rescue Service but they will need to work with the ambulance service and the police service. This is the type of co-ordination that would need to take place.”
Lopez added that when looking at developing capabilities Civil Contingencies looks at the personnel required, the equipment and training needed.