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Training at Bury

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In October 2017 the UK hosted an International Modex based in Merseyside and Greater Manchester. A consortium led by The Johanniter, who were awarded Lot 3 by the European mechanism to stage a number of exercises within the EU.

In this exercise a medium USAR module from Iceland (ICE-SAR), a medium USAR module from France (FRA-SAR), an EMT 1 mobile team from Germany (JUH EMT), a drone capacity from France (RPAS), a Hungarian USAR skeleton module as well as a TAST from Italy and a UCP team trained their capacities. A total of 129 participants joined this exercise.

The exercise is based on ‘real time’ although this is all run in a 48 hour window and provides the participating teams with real challenges exposing them to real decision making pressures that they can expect to encounter in the event of a ‘real on-set disaster’

The training site in Bury, Greater Manchester is a new venue that has been developed and continues to be developed for all kinds of Blue Light Training. This combined with the facilities in Merseyside provide fantastic readiness training for our International Search and Rescue Response.



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At 16:53 (21:53 GMT) on Tuesday 12 January a magnitude 7 earthquake hit Haiti with the epicentre 15km South West of the capital Port Au Prince. The earthquake occurred at a very shallow depth of 6.2km and the result was extensive damage throughout many areas of Haiti. 8. Although UK ISAR initiated an early mobilisation, attendance in Haiti was hampered by the closure of Gatwick airport due to severe weather, with further delays experienced due to Port Au Prince airport experiencing damage and was therefore closed during darkness hours.

Additionally, the Haitian Government quickly agreed to a Memorandum of Understanding with the US which led to the US Military taking control of the airfield. 9. The UK ISAR team only arrived in Port Au Prince during 13 and 14 January due to logistical problems with securing an aircraft in the Dominican Republic. Once in situ a Base of Operations was set up at Toussaint L’ouverture airport, with the team commencing search and rescue operations immediately having liaised with the Local Emergency Management Agencies, which was being coordinated by the On Site Operations Coordination Centre (OSOCC). 10.

A record number (62) of International Search and Rescue teams along with 150+ search and rescue canines were involved in rescue operations and UK ISAR worked alongside many international teams. UK ISAR is held in very high regard by the United Nations International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (UN INSARAG) due to its current classification and members experience and skills. For this reason the UK Team was utilised for various search and rescue tasks that could not be delegated to other teams e.g. search and rescue in high risk security areas. 11. The UK ISAR was the first team to be deployed to two previously unsearched towns in Haiti i.e. Leogane and Petit Goave; the latter being the epicentre of a second earthquake occurring on 20 January.


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FOLLOWING the earthquake in Japan and the devastating tsunami in March 2011, seven members of Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service departed with colleagues from other Fire and Rescue Services from around the country to help with rescue efforts.

Despite an extensive search of residential and industrial properties, sadly no survivors were found. Just six days after the start of the disaster, with heavy snow and falling temperatures, it meant that there was an extremely low chance of finding survivors.


National exercise

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As part of the EU funded disaster response training events the UK were asked to take part in one of the very large scale exercises. The disaster was centred on an earthquake and Tsunami type event taking place in Faultland (Langvang, Denmark really). The UK were joined by teams from France, Belarus and Denmark as well as a EU Civil Protection Assessment Team

All of the Rescue team together

The UK decided to send a Medium Rescue Team led by GM Dean Nankivell. The team was made up of FF’s from Essex, London, Scotland, South Wales, West Midlands, West Sussex, Cheshire and Leicester plus 1 senior Doctor and 2 x paramedics.

The whole exercise took place in ‘real time’ and lasted 3 days working around the clock. Many challenges were put in front of the teams, these included establishing a base of operations (tented village), reconnaissance and assessment, meeting local emergency agencies, search and rescue, medical intervention, team interoperability with other responders and host nation support.

One of the scenarios set by the organisers


The weather in Denmark was wet, cold and on occasions windy, not ideal for working and sleeping in tents but something that UKISAR are prepared for and can do quite happily now. The whole team worked continuously for the 3 days grabbing sleep and food whenever the opportunity arose. The whole team acquitted themselves to the standards we, UK ISAR, have set and expect. There were no injuries to personnel or canines. Feedback from the EU Trainers and Exercise Staff was exemplar and once again the UK was able to show the other teams why we are considered to be the best International SAR team in the world.

GM Nankivell said – It is important that UK ISAR prepare for real disasters on these type of exercises, working with other international responders to improve our own standards and knowledge and ensuring we, as a team, are ready to respond wherever and whenever we are called upon. As the Team Leader of this 45 person team it makes me incredibly proud to know that we can bring together firefighters from across the UK and work in complete harmony together whenever we are required to do so.

The funding for this exercise was provided by the EU Mechanism

Exercise complete, a job well done