Swiftwater and Flood Rescue Technicians

For the past two weekends members of ASSAR have been training hard to gain their Swiftwater and Flood Rescue Technician status, for some this was a re-certification. We are pleased to announce that all passed.

The course covers a wide range of awareness and practical techniques including the following;

  • swiftwater swimming techniques
  • tethered rescues
  • rope anchor systems
  • tensioned rope techniques
  • river and flood area search

Members of the team visited the National White Water Centre in North Wales to learn and practice the swiftwater techniques while staying in the North Somerset area for the rest. Our thanks to Mendip Outdoor Pursuits and Swallet Farm for providing the training venues.

The course is provided and certified by Rescue 3 Europe who are internationally recognised and form the core training for rescue teams and emergency services around the world. In the UK this particular course forms part of the Defra Flood Rescue Concept of Operations, follow this link to view the document https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/flood-rescue-concept-of-operations

ASSARs Team Leader is a qualified Rescue 3 instructor, leading to a high level of understanding and awareness amongst the team, alongside the operational experience.

ASSAR Swiftwater Rescue Technicians

ASSAR Swiftwater Rescue Technicians

Posted on 14 / 04 / 2014

Navigation Awards

The great outdoors can be explored freely and safely when you know where you are, where you are going and how you’ll get there. Good navigation skills are important for enjoying any area of the countryside from urban fringe to mountains. Excellent navigation skills are crucial for members of search and rescue teams.

Each search party will have an allocated navigator but all members are expected to be able to navigate to a competent level. ASSAR members have adopted the National Navigational Award Scheme as a standard competency level. Several ASSAR members achieved their silver awards recently with other members and aspirants working towards their certification. Our thanks to ASSARs navigation trainers for organising the assessments.

ASSAR navigation assessment while enduring hail, sleet and snow around Mendip.

ASSAR navigation assessment while enduring hail, sleet and snow around Mendip.

The Silver award syllabus is as follows:

  • Devise a strategy for a navigational stage, to break it down into ‘coarse’ and ‘fine’ navigation and to use clear features en route to check that you are ‘on course’.
  • Understand and apply the following components of a navigational strategy ‘aiming off’, ‘attack points’, ‘collecting features’, simplifying navigation, and apply them in varying terrain.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of contour features, both large and small, on the map and on the ground.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the navigation physical and factors affecting route choice.
  • Judge distance accurately on the map and on the ground.
  • Plan a safe walk or route involving Silver award skills and strategies.
  • Employ simple relocation strategies when lost.
  • Use a compass to follow accurate bearings and to check the direction of footpaths or other linear features on both map and ground.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the effects of fatigue and physical discomfort brought on by navigating in demanding countryside and/or extreme weather condition. Knowledge of basic first aid is also expected.
  • Demonstrate knowledge and application of the Countryside Code and current access legislation as for the Bronze level together with an appreciation of basic environmental factors in mixing ‘man with nature’ (e.g. footpath erosion and methods of dealing with it), and responsibilities towards other countryside interests like farming, forestry and conservation.

For more details visit the National Navigation Award Scheme website.

Posted on 10 / 02 / 2014

ASSAR Receives Donation from Incredible Fundraiser

ASSAR was privileged to receive a cheque from a very special fundraiser. Sarah Williams from http://www.smilingeyesinternational.co.uk has setSarah Williams, Smiling Eyes Internationalherself the challenge of completing 150 tasks to raise £150 for 150 different charities! To make this an even more incredible achievement Sarah is almost blind.

Sarah went white water rafting in Brecon, Wales to raise £150 which she very kindly donated to ASSAR. We will be using this money to help buy a flood raft to help with water rescues. Everyone in ASSAR would like to extend their thanks to Sarah and wish her well in her fundraising efforts.

Posted on 20 / 01 / 2014

No selection weekend in 2014

To allow the team to focus on training the existing new recruits and develop specialist skills of team members there will be no selection weekend for ASSAR in 2014.

Currently there are approximately a dozen new trainees and ‘aspirant’ members, the next level up, working through their core competency skills. The training team within ASSAR want to focus on the progression of these individuals this year before taking on anymore new recruits.

ASSAR also wants to ensure existing team members have the appropriate skills for the increasing number of water based search and rescue callouts.

Both of these issues place a high demand on all the volunteers in ASSAR. Another selection weekend will be organised for 2015. If you would like to apply please email communication@ascrt.com.

Posted on 19 / 12 / 2013

Members of both Houses of Parliament supportive of Mountain Rescue funding campaign

Representatives of mountain and cave rescue teams from across England and Wales were in Parliament last week and met with over 80 MPs and members of the House of Lords during that time.Mountain Rescue looking across River Thames at Parliament, London.

David Allen is the Chairman of Mountain Rescue England and Wales (MREW): “We focused on two key messages: the breadth of what we are asked to do and the funding gap with similar services,” he said. “We were encouraged by the level of interest, the obvious support and the understanding of our current status as volunteers providing a vital service. We now need to clarify the next steps in our campaign to achieve regular and significant funding from central government.”

The exhibition ran in the Upper Waiting Hall in the Palace of Westminster from Monday to Friday and a Reception, sponsored by Penrith and the Border MP and leader of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Rescue Services, Rory Stewart OBE MP, was held on Tuesday night (29 October) and attracted about 50 people from both Houses.

“I believe that this was an important event for Parliament because mountain rescue represents one of the very solid examples in the country of volunteers, people unpaid doing something which is completely vital to the public interest,” said Rory Stewart. “For Parliament to concentrate on that and to get nearly fifty MPs in a reception, meeting mountain rescue people, I think it is going to be very important in changing perceptions of what volunteers do for us in society.”

Avon & Somerset Search and Rescue were called out 31 times in the last 12 months, as a team spending a total of 1670 volunteer hours searching for and rescuing people. The average callout lasts 5hours. The majority were land searches followed by cliff and water rescues.

Rory Stewart had invited the Prime Minister, David Cameron to attend the Reception and, although unable to do so, he wrote in reply and commented that: “The work carried out by the volunteers and everyone involved in this service is immensely worthy of praise and recognition.”

Andrew Bingham, MP for High Peak and based in Buxton, attended the reception: “It was great to be there to support the mountain rescue because they do such a fantastic job across the whole of the High Peak area.  They really are the extra emergency service that not only residents rely on but also all the visitors that we get across Kinder. Without the mountain rescue, we really would be struggling.”

David Amess, MP for Southend West, also attended the exhibition and spoke to members of MREW: “I thoroughly admire the courage, dedication and commitment of the rescue service in assisting desperate people in the mountains. It is important to acknowledge how they put their lives at risk for the safety of others,” he added.

“Volunteer rescuers, about 3,600 of them in England and Wales, are available 24/7 throughout the year for local call outs,” said MREW Head of Fundraising, Mike France, “and they have to train for many different situations and needs. So it seems crazy that they also have to find time for fundraising just to keep their Teams going and we’re hoping that the week’s discussions in Westminster will have shown MPs the huge discrepancy between the financial support given by government to Scottish rescuers – about £16,480 per team – and the much more limited funding to English teams of just £2,246 per team.”

“If government could guarantee a level of funding from the public purse closer to the Scottish figure, we’d be able to underwrite investments in vehicles and essential kit and subsidise essential training and insurance and our volunteer rescuers would be able to focus on getting the job done rather than having to worry about money.”

“We had great support last week from the MPs local to our rescue teams and representing the key areas for our more obvious work,” said David Allen, “and the Reception enabled us to extend this knowledge and support throughout Parliament. We will continue to work with Rory and the APPG to move this campaign on and explore the options for future funding.”

Posted on 08 / 11 / 2013

Mountain Rescue at the Houses of Parliament

Next week there’s an exhibition at the Houses of Parliament organised by Mountain Rescue England and Wales, I’ve let all the MP’s in our area know why they should stop by and find out more about how mountain rescue teams have changed and why they need supporting.
In our area for example;
  • 85% of our callouts involve searching for and rescuing despondents, people with mental problems and the elderly who may have walked away from care homes.
  • Avon & Somerset has the highest inland cliffs in the country at Cheddar Gorge and a suicide hotspot in Avon Gorge plus numerous quarries and mines all requiring a specialist technical response beyond the capability of the Fire & Rescue Service.
  • With the increase in flooding incidents our bankside search and rescue techniques and swiftwater rescue capability has been called on regularly.
  • We are Avon & Somerset Police’s chosen search and rescue partner available 24/7, 365 days a year, staffed entirely by volunteers.

Avon & Somerset Search and Rescue_searching_woods

Posted on 23 / 10 / 2013

Selection Weekend 28-29/9/2013

We have another selection weekend this September due to increased interest. The selection weekend will take place on 28-29 September near Bristol. If you would like to try and join the team please email the address below. The weekend includes talks, practical sessions and training, a night navigation course and a search & rescue exercise.

Details have been sent out to nearly 30 individuals but it’s not too late to receive details. We’re not looking for any specific skills but are expecting you to be comfortable for prolonged periods outdoors, reasonably fit as most call-outs last over 2 hours, are calm and able to fit in with a close knit team.

If you would like to receive details please email communication@ascrt.com

Posted on 14 / 07 / 2013

HEMS & HART Awareness

ASSAR operates with other emergency services on a regular basis during the rescue stage of callouts. Training visits to these services are vital to ensure awareness of capabilities is maintained. These visits are also important for ASSAR to ensure other services are equally aware of our role for Avon & Somerset Police. ASSAR trainees and members recently visited the Great Western Air Ambulance base at Filton and the nearby HART – Hazardous Area Response Team.

Operating safely around helicopters is a fundamental requirement of any search and rescue team. An appreciation of what assets are available to help is important, from the fast air ambulance that can bring expert medical care to the RAF Sea Kings that can winch casualties to safety. Team members and trainees visited the air ambulance base for a tour and briefing delivered by one of the critical care paramedics, also an ASSAR member.

HART were established after the London Tube bombings in 2007 to train paramedics to work alongside Fire & Rescue and other emergency services in difficult areas. They have responded to various incidents involving cliffs, caves and floods alongside ASSAR. The tour demonstrated the type of vehicles and supporting kit that HART can bring to a rescue.

Our thanks go to all those involved that showed us around their respective units, especially Pete Sadler Critical Care Paramedic from the Great Western Air Ambulance for organising the day. Please support the valuable work of this charity through their site.

ASSAR members and trainees visiting the Filton HART base.

ASSAR members and trainees visiting the Filton HART base.

ASSAR trainees learning how to load the Great Western Air Ambulance.

ASSAR trainees learning how to load the Great Western Air Ambulance.

Posted on 30 / 06 / 2013

Police cadets shine at Search & Rescue

Members of ASSAR have spent the last couple of Thursday evenings helping police cadets from North Somerset understand how we support the police with search and rescue. Their learning was put to the test on Saturday with an exercise involving finding clues, working out the direction of travel of a missing person, searching paths, looking after a casualty and moving them to a safe location. Quite a challenge. The cadets were brilliant. Their teamwork and communication shone through. Even our ‘casualty’ said she felt ’safe and secure’!

North Somerset police cadets place a casualty in a vacuum mattress during a search and rescue exercise with ASSAR.

North Somerset police cadets place a casualty in a vacuum mattress during a search and rescue exercise with ASSAR.

Posted on 16 / 06 / 2013

Joint Exercise with Exmoor SRT

ASSAR and Exmoor SRT have supported each other several times over the years on call-outs. To ensure knowledge and appreciation of each team’s techniques a joint training exercise was organised by Exmoor SRT.

The two teams, joined by Devon & Somerset Fire and Rescue Service, combined for a multi-scenario exercise involving injured canoeist, injured bird-spotter and a horse trapped in a ditch on top of its rider. Luckily the horse was a mannequin but still the average weight of a horse with articulated limbs.

ASSAR, Exmoor SRT and D&S Fire and Rescue Service debrief after the exercise.

ASSAR, Exmoor SRT and D&S Fire and Rescue Service debrief after the exercise.

The secretary of ASSAR said, “The three agencies worked extremely well together, sharing ideas and gaining a realinsight. It’s the little things that count, our standard procedures are the same but each team will develop it’s own techniques according to the local circumstances. Our thanks go to the training team at Exmoor SRT and all their members for setting up the day.”

For more details on Exmoor SRT.

Posted on 10 / 06 / 2013