Firefighters from across Scotland are developing their specialist urban search and rescue (USAR) skills at a brand new facility, which replicates the treacherous, cramped and complex scenes of building collapses and other emergencies.
The £2.4million purpose-built Technical Rescue Training Zone is the latest asset at the world-leading Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) Training Centre in Cambuslang on the outskirts of Glasgow.
Opened this month, the bespoke design means SFRS officers from every part of Scotland can train for emergencies using realistic scenarios in an area that replicates the challenging environment of collapsed structures, narrow trenches and deep sewers.
SFRS Chief Officer Alasdair Hay and Chair Pat Watters welcomed Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs Roseanna Cunningham to the service’s new state-of-the-art facility.
Chief Officer Hay said: “Urban search and rescue is a highly specialised aspect of the modern firefighter’s role and this facility ensures crews from all over Scotland can develop and maintain those skills.
“We all saw the courage, skill and professionalism of our USAR teams following the recent tragedy at the Clutha Bar in Glasgow City Centre, so it is important the public know our commitment to supporting our firefighters’ training in such difficult work.
“The environment facing USAR teams is often incredibly complex and hazardous. Rescuers must operate in very confined and extremely unpredictable spaces with the constant threat of collapse always a very real risk.
“Working in dangerous voids within large amounts of heavy and unstable debris, USAR teams take on the immense challenge of finding, stabilising and removing potentially high numbers of seriously injured casualties.
“Construction of our Technical Rescue Training Zone began one month into the life of the new Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, and it is truly a great pleasure to see it provide Scotland’s firefighters with an unparalleled training facility.
“This site allows firefighters to train in realistic surroundings, ensuring when emergencies of this sort happen anywhere in Scotland, our crews have benefited from the expertise and best practice guidance of specialist instructors and can call upon personal experience of operating in similar settings.”
The newly operational Technical Rescue Training Zone includes removable stairs, collapsed floors, collapsed roofs, removable safety barriers, and a tunnel complex capable of simulating collapses in its sections.
Firefighters training at the new facility will be able to practice tunnelling and shoring, hot cutting of steel, and breaking and breaching concrete, as well as conducting technical search and heavy lifting operations.
Pat Watters, Chair of the SFRS Board commented: “From the outset of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service we have made clear our commitment to ensuring every community benefits from equitable access to specialist and national resources.
“Firefighters conducting USAR operations must be able to safely find and reach casualties and provide them with emergency trauma care in the most challenging of environments.
“They may face an unknown number of hazards and victims with potentially life-threatening injuries and will be operating in highly unstable settings so, by replicating these scenes, the new Technical Rescue Training Zone will be a tremendous asset.
“With firefighters from every part of Scotland now receiving specialist training at this world-leading facility, it means expert USAR capability will be readily available wherever and whenever it is needed.”
The zone also includes a wilderness rescue area, with trees planted and boulders installed to replicate a wooded hillside.
Visiting the new facility on Wednesday (29 January), Fire Minister Roseanna Cunningham said: “It is wonderful to see first-hand how investment is being used to such great affect in this world-leading training facility in Cambuslang.
“Scottish firefighters are amongst the most experienced and highly professional in the world and having the opportunity to access this specialist training is a fantastic addition.
“While conventional training is important, there is no doubt that working in this new Technical Rescue Training Zone gives our firefighters the opportunity to develop their skills and use them at short notice, and as we’ve seen recently during the Clutha disaster.
“Our firefighters played an important role during this incident and I also had the opportunity to visit the Johnstone Fire Control Centre earlier today to thank staff again for their hard work and dedication through the most tragic of circumstances.
“Johnstone is a facility which covers calls from over 50% of Scotland’s communities – from rural to urban to the islands and across Gaelic speaking regions, and the way they handled this incident whilst also providing an excellent level of service to other communities is to be commended.
“Both of these unique facilities allow firefighters and fire staff across the length and breadth of Scotland to provide Scotland with an exceptional service and to keep people safe.”