Cliff Rescue cover of Avon was originally provided by the Police as the City and Council of Bristol Police Force Rocks Rescue Unit. Approximately 1981, Police Rocks Rescue Unit was disbanded & its duties were absorbed into the role of the Avon Rocks Rescue Team (ARRT), which was formed in 1976 and was working in parallel at the time; this organisation was made up mainly of climbing instructors working for local government.
No cliff rescue cover was in place for this area and it was opening to a wider climbing audience; Lord Bath (Longleat Estates) was being advised to prohibit climbing in the Gorge due to difficulty of recovery and liability. An agreement was reached whereby the climbers would form a rescue team to provide this cover and climbing would continue to be permitted. The Cheddar Gorge Cliff Rescue Team (CGCRT) was consequently formed in 1977
Both teams continued in parallel and over time, the membership became common to both teams, this required a needless duplication of roles etc, circa 1990 ARRT and CGCRT merged to create Avon and Somerset Cliff Rescue team.
By 1997, the Police recognised that ASCRT had capabilities beyond just Cliff and this resulted in them requesting that we develop the capability to react to the additional requirement of Search & Rescue. With an increase in service demand, an increase in manpower resulted in the inclusion of the Mendip Hill volunteer rangers. Consequently the ASCRT was re-modelled and in response to Avon & Somerset Police request was in November 2006 re-named Avon & Somerset Search & Rescue as it was felt this more accurately represented the teams main role. In 2000 Search Management capabilities were introduced to further enhance our operational capabilities.
Standard Operational Procedures
In 1998 we became the first team in the country to develop a documented system covering all operational and non-operational aspects of the organisation. This was subsequently presented to the Avon & Somerset Police to more formally specify our capabilities. This document was subsequently delivered to the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) by our Chief Constable and became the template for other teams to follow.
In 2006, at the request of the Police we started developing the capability to carry out water margin search, in addition to Technical Rescue / Search & Rescue.
Civil Contingencies Act 2004
In 2005, the implementation of this act called for many considerations regarding emergency action planning and A&S SAR are actively contributing to this process. In 2007, directly as a result of this act, we have signed Compacts of Common Purpose (Memorandums of Understanding), with the Police Ambulance and Fire & Rescue Services; these agreements pave the way for closer working relationships and joined up rescue, to provide a better service to the community.
We currently have over 80 members, 50 of which are active 24 hours a day 365 days a year to help rescue people in the Avon & Somerset and surrounding areas, helping the local authorities save lives. We can also be mobilised in support of other teams nationally, with trained and competent personnel fulfilling Technical, water margin, search, search management and major incident management.