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Specialist Rescue

The modern fire and rescue service is so much more than just putting out fires. Our four Specialist Rescue Teams are based throughout the service area in Plymouth, Barnstaple, Bridgwater and Exeter.

Each of the four teams is specially trained to conduct rescues from a variety of environments such as:
  • Fast flowing and deep water
  • Widespread flooding
  • High place (eg cliffs, cranes and buildings)
  • Confined spaces (eg mine shafts and sewers)

The teams also have specialist large animal rescue capability for incidents involving entrapped horses and cattle. All our operational firefighters within the service receive a basic level of training in these areas in order to allow them to operate safely in the water, at height or in a confined space (SHACS). It is the role of these specialist teams both to support frontline firefighters when they are working in these environments, and to carry out any rescues requiring their specialist skills.

Water and flood rescue

We have seen an increase in flooding over recent years, which has meant an increase in number of flooding and water incidents we attend. Each of the specialist rescue teams are equipped with water rescue equipment and have undergone a thorough development programme to qualify them to undertake rescues from deep and fast flowing water.

Their role ranges from conducting rescues from rivers and flooded towns, to rescues from mud, sand and ice. Their equipment includes;
  • Dry suits
  • Buoyancy aids
  • Special floating ropes
  • Inflatable walkways
  • Inflatable boats

Their training builds on the training already received as firefighters. They receive a one week course followed by a period of personal development. The teams then train monthly and have to re-qualify every three years to maintain their specialist skills.

Rope and confined space rescue

Changes to legislation and working practices over the last ten years have brought about significant changes to the way in which firefighters work at height and in confined spaces. All our operational firefighters receive training and equipment which allows them to work safely in these environments. Special Rescue Team members build on this training and undertake a further seven-day course and period of development to enable them not only to work in this environment, but to undertake rescue from high places and confined spaces using complex rope techniques and specialist equipment. Their role includes carrying out rescues from:

  • Cliffs
  • Quarries
  • Cranes
  • Bridges
  • Scaffolding
  • Mine shafts
  • Culverts
  • Grain silos and;
  • Anywhere else that requires rope to deal with difficult access.
Large animal rescue

The Chief Fire Officers Association issued new national guidance on how to conduct rescues of large animals such as horses and cattle. The new techniques are more efficient and more comfortable to the animals than those traditionally used. We’ve been quick to take on the guidance and have training and equipped the Special Rescue Teams to carry out this role.

This specialist capability has also meant we have a team of Specialist Rescue Advisors who give advice in all aspects of specialist rescue either at the incident or at an off scene command centre. All of our four teams are listed on the national flood rescue assets register and we have four specialist rescue vehicles and powered rescue boats.
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