Cash boost for Norfolk Fire Service dive team

A new fire service dive team in Norfolk can now carry out underwater search and recovery across Britain thanks to a �27,000 government grant.

The money came from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and will extend the capability of Norfolk Fire Service's urban search and rescue team (USAR), which is based in Dereham.

The county's USAR team was set up in 2006 as part of the government's national response to the New York September 11 attacks in 2001.

Members of the specialist unit are trained in rescues such as finding and rescuing casualties from major accidents, including building collapses and transport incidents.

Norfolk's USAR team is funded by central government and not by the county council, but it is made up of trained firefighters from across the county.

Harry Humphrey, cabinet member for community protection, said: 'This team will represent the pinnacle of water based technical search skills, putting Norfolk right at the forefront of the government's response to the recommendations in the Exercise Watermark report.

'The funding received is over and above previous grants, and represents additional inward investment into Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, made available to us through the enthusiasm and commitment of our staff, and the confidence at the highest levels of government in our ability to deliver.'

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In March last year Norfolk took part in a national emergency flooding event called Exercise Watermark.

This was completed to test national, regional, local and community arrangements for dealing with flooding emergencies.

Roy Harold, assistant chief fire officer for Norfolk, said: 'It is important to stress that there are currently no means by which this team can be deployed for immediate use in a live rescues, and the grant is not intended to provide this, only search and recovery.

'Instead, USAR will be able to provide a second search and recovery team nationally, alongside the Nottinghamshire Police Dive Unit.

'The team could be mobilised in advance of a major flood event, such as a 1953 style east-coast tidal surge, to provide a national strategic reserve which could be deployed to protect or reinstate critical national infrastructure, or to undertake underwater search.'

The grant comes as new 4x4 fire engines are introduced to Norfolk Fire Service, which are designed to help manage flood risk.

Ten of these vehicles will be sent to fire stations at King's Lynn, Great Yarmouth, Downham Market, Thetford, Martham, Acle, Wroxham, Sheringham, Methwold and Loddon over the next two years.

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