From flying to Haiti to free those trapped in the devastating earthquake, to searching for murder weapons or responding to terrorist incidents, life as a member of the Kent Fire and Rescue, Urban Search and Rescue, (USAR) / Technical Rescue Team service is full of unprecedented challenges, distressing lows, and energising highs. I had the opportunity to listen to a first-hand account from a Watch Manager of a specialised group within the Kent Fire and Rescue service talk of his experiences, some of which I will share in this article.


Prior to joining Kent Fire and Rescue Service, Steve was a member of the Royal Navy. Now, as a supervisor of a small group of specialised individuals, he describes his experience as exciting because ‘no day is ever the same’. Steve completed 4 years as a firefighter before he could gain this specialist role. As a part of the job, Steve and his team are on standby, ready to be deployed in the UK for up to 30 days without warning to support the rescue and recovery’s phase of an incident or an unknown period if responding to catastrophic sudden onset disasters overseas with The United Kingdom Search and Rescue Team, (UKISAR). 



In recent years the team have been mobilised to earthquakes in Turkey, Indonesia, Haiti, New Zealand, and Japan. After challenging and emotional jobs like these, the crew are flown back to the UK and given a decompression period. Steve spoke about the importance of mental health within the crew, who witness situations in the world that the average person could not even begin to imagine. 



Steve also mentioned the roles that he is given when in the UK. The team is often used for missing persons cases because of the resources that his specialist team have access to. Steve’s crew often use search dogs and drones to locate people. The crew are medically trained and therefore sometimes go in behind the police after a terrorist attack to rescue injured victims on site. He has also had the opportunity to work in a local Accident and Emergency department and work with ambulance crews in Cape Town and South Africa to enhance his medical skills.


The Technical Rescue team get a lot of calls to locate trapped dogs and cats in confined spaces and to assist fire crews with their Telehandler for lifting large animals such as horses and cows. 


Steve and the team dedicate a lot of time to training and recently he attended a cold weather survival course in Canada, where he had to camp in -22°C and source water by melting snow. He was flown in a helicopter over many miles of forests before being dropped off and told to navigate his way back through the deep snow. 


Steve made it clear that as the supervisor of the group, safety is his biggest priority, with his goal being to ‘ensure that all of [his] team gets home safely’ after each deployment, and he is extremely proud to be a member of the Kent Fire and Rescue service.