Photo-gallery: Dereham-based rescue team causes quite a splash

Reporter Kate Scotter trains with one of the Norfolk Urban Search and Rescue teams during water training at Horstead Mill.
Photo by Simon Finlay. Reporter Kate Scotter trains with one of the Norfolk Urban Search and Rescue teams during water training at Horstead Mill. Photo by Simon Finlay.

Thursday, July 24, 2014
10:35 AM

They are an award-winning water rescue team and when the floods hit in the UK earlier this year, their services were required hundreds of miles away from their Dereham base. KATE SCOTTER went out with Norfolk’s Urban Search and Rescue Team to discover more about their life-saving work.

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Kate’s training with Norfolk’s rescue team

When I headed out to train with the Usar team, I was ready to test my mettle with the boys in the water.

Kitted out in a dry suit and a personal flotation device (PFD), watch manager Duncan Barrow talked me through the safety points before we headed into the water. At first, he checked how at ease I was in the water by getting me to float on my back and make directional changes.

It was then time for the serious stuff to begin. The session saw me swim against flowing water, dive into the water in pursuit of person in danger and bring them back to safety, paddle on the specialist sled across the flow of water and work as part of the team to wade to a stranded casualty.

It was an eye-opening experience which demonstrated just how highly skilled this team we are so lucky to have is.

What also impressed me was the team work and camaraderie – never does this team put one of its members in danger, they really look out for one another and they will always work together to bring about the best solution and make the situation as safe as possible.

The Norfolk Urban Search and Rescue Team (Usar), which is based at Dereham fire station, was set up in 2006 in response to the September 11 attacks.

Regarded as one of the best in the country, the team has rope and chainsaw capabilities and a diverse range of specialist equipment – they also have their own trained rescue dog, black labrador Hooky.

What really sets this award-winning team apart, however, is its ability to turn its hand to water-based emergencies.

They make up to 30pc of their call-outs and can include missing person searches, animals stranded in water, wading through urban floods to help people out of their homes and cars stuck in fords.

The team is a national asset and can be called to any corner of the country.

When the floods hit the south coast earlier this year, they went down to Berkshire and Devon.

The operation saw one half of the team – it is split into two, blue watch and red watch – spend four says in Berkshire.

David Jackson, who was part of the team which won the Water Challenge at the United Kingdom Rescue Challenge 2013 in Liverpool, said: “Norfolk is one of the best equipped brigades for water rescues in the country so we get called in quite a lot and that’s justified in the investment that’s been put into flood response.

“The quicker you can respond, the safer people are which has a knock-on effect to medical care.”

To keep their skills up to date, the team will go through rigorous training sessions, practising wading, defensive swimming, aggressive swimming, rope-bag throwing and paddling with a sled.

They will also go down to the Olympics white water venue at Lee Valley to put their skills to the test in testing water conditions once a year.

“There are so many elements to it,” said Mr Jackson. “And you never know when you are going to be called out or what you are going to be called out to so you need to be prepared for all scenarios at all times.”

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