Search our site

Translate this site

USAR Exercises

Exercise Zephyros

Exercise Zephyros - 29 May 2013 - Ecotricity Swaffham 

On the 29th May 2013 James Little from USAR Red Watch organised an exercise at the Ecotricity Swaffham 2 Wind Turbine. This Wind Turbine stands at 85m in height and has an internal ladder (there is a lift but this is very slow!).

The exercise was designed around a member of Ecotricity maintenance staff becoming medically incapacitated within the rotor hub which is at the very top of the tower and also in a very confined space.

With the increasing amount of Wind Turbines appearing in our countryside, this exercise was jointly arranged with Ecotricity and USAR – we tested; Work at Height, Access arrangements and Casualty Extrication. The Ambulance Trust Hazardous Area Response Team and Massingham Fire Crew were in attendance with Massingham making the initial access backed up by USAR and then medical intervention was made by the HART team.

This was a very worthwhile exercise which all attending personnel gained valuable experience in this area of an expanding industry.

Exercise Mardle

Exercise Mardle - 24 April 2013 - Wymondham

On the 24th April 2013 the USAR team attended a Multi Agency Exercise at Wymondham in Norfolk. This was organised by the Ambulance Trust and run under the banner of the Norfolk Resilience Forum. The scenario was a simulated rail crash (train vs van) with multiple casualties in multiple carriages and locations.

Attending emergency services were; Fire & Rescue Service (4 Fire Crews, USAR), Police, Ambulance (Major Incident Units, Ambulances HART and Air Ambulance), RAF Seaking and a Surgical Response Team who were flown in by the RAF.

A highly challenging scene faced the first attending personnel – a local college had arranged for students to act as casualties along with Amputees in Action. All the casualties had been made up with highly realistic wounds and injuries.

The exercise was designed to test the response from all the emergency services and to identify any gaps within the individual agency procedures for a Multi-Agency Incident.


Exercise Maddison


Exercise Madison - 26-28 April 2013 Lincolnshire Fire & Rescue Training Centre 

Over the weekend of the 26th – 28th April 2013 Norfolk USAR Red Watch organised a National USAR Exercise that coincided with 2 other National Exercises in Tyne and Wear and Merseyside. National Resilience used these 3 Exercises as a National Coordination Exercise (3 simultaneous Incidents with multiple USAR Assets assigned) which included Gold Command in the Cabinet Office.

Exercise Madison was held at Lincolnshire Fire & Rescue Training Centre at Waddington and included USAR teams from Norfolk, Devon & Somerset, Essex, Kent, Avon and Lincolnshire. Advanced Logistical Support was provided by Nottinghamshire Fire & Rescue.

The Exercise ran over 3 days with the 1st day consisting of a Table Top Incident with real-time information being fed into Gold Command – Days 2 and 3 were when all USAR assets were on site.

Day 2 consisted of a series of 2 hour workshops or mini challenges of USAR Functions – Line Acces/Casualty Extrication and Shoring. There was also theory input on Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) from the Police and Casualty Management from the Ambulance Service.

Day 3 was the main event with there being a simulated explosion in an industrial unit that was being used for an illegal Rave – an unknown number of casualties were reported as unaccounted for and there was a risk of further explosions or further collapse.

The Exercise was designed to test all of the USAR Functions in a realistic environment over a prolonged period (10hours) and it also brought together teams from across the Country to work alongside one another.


Exercise 'Stickleback'

Exercise Stickleback, February 28th 2012 Whitlingham Country park

Pictures courtesy of 3rdi Media

Norfolk Fire and Rescue USAR hosted Carrow Fire Crews, the Ambulance Hazardous Area Response Team (HART), Norfolk Police Search Advisor (POLSA), Norfolk Lowland Search and Rescue (NORLSAR), the RNLI and the control unit from Wymondham in a large scale water and land search and rescue exercise which was conducted during the hours of darkness.

The exercise was organised by technician Scott Field from Red Watch USAR, it involved two light aircraft that had collided over the broad, one coming down in the broad striking three yachts and the other in the picnic medow. There were 7 casualties in the water and two on land. Volunteers from Whitlingham outdoor education centre and City College were the casualties.

Exercise aims

  • To test the county of Norfolk’s response to a large scale incident involving multiple casualties in water and on land
  • To test the interoperability of all agencies involved with specific examination of command structure and communications
  • To robustly test the recovery, treatment and processing of casualties and bystanders and the associated actions of all agencies

Learning outcomes

  •  To experience the effective integration of bronze command at a multi-agency incident
  •  To demonstrate best practice with regard to casualty management, communication and care
  •  To demonstrate an efficient, effective and systematic search plan of the incident site in cold and darkness
  •  To allow all agencies whether land or water based, to conduct operations in a realistic scenario in adverse environmental conditions

The exercise started at 18:30 with Carrow being the first attending crew, they were met by a distressed brother of one of the casualties who was claiming to have seen an aircraft hit the yachts. They then proceeded to the water to see casualties close to the bank requiring immediate rescue, once these were dealt with a systematic search of the broad and surrounding area took place. One light aircraft was discovered half floating in the broad with the other found some 500 yards away in the woods.
In total, including responders, observers and volunteers there were over 60 personnel at the exercise.

All of the aims and objectives were fully tested by the exercise and all learning points will be fed into future operations and exercises.

Quote From ACO Roy Harold

“The exercise was a great demonstration of what our staff can achieve, delivering a realistic, challenging multi-agency exercise in testing conditions.”



Exercise 'Barbel'

Exercise 'Barbel' 7th November 2011, Leziate Lake View

Norfolk Fire and Rescue USAR hosted the ambulance Hazardous Area Response Team (HART), Norfolk Police Search Advisor (POLSA), Norfolk Lowland Search and Rescue (NORLSAR) and King’s Lynn Fire Crews in a large scale water rescue exercise which was conducted during the hours of darkness and cold temperatures.

The exercise was organised by technician Scott Field from Red Watch USAR, it involved a submerged car which had crashed into 15 Kayakers. There were multiple casualties in the water and two missing children somewhere around the lake. Volunteers from Leziate Lakeview, Kings Lynn Sub Aqua Club, Whitlingham outdoor education centre and Norfolk ETC were the waterborne casualties; Harry and Tom Field (Scott’s Children with Mum Looking after them) also took part in the exercise.

Exercise Aims

  • To test the County of Norfolk’s response to a large scale incident involving multiple casualties involving in water.• To test the interoperability of all agencies involved.

Learning Outcomes

  • To test multi agency working at  bronze command level.• To demonstrate best practice in regard to casualty management in water and darkness.
  • To demonstrate an efficient and effective search of the incident site in cold and darkness.
  • To allow all water rescue agencies to conduct operations in a realistic scenario and adverse environmental conditions.
  • To demonstrate effective means to conduct a search of a submerged object.

The Police were first on scene whereby they were approached by the owner of the kayak club with a complete list of the number of casualties (15) in the water; he also told them that the kayakers had been struck by a car. Next in attendance were the crews from King’s Lynn, they were faced with many casualties in distress, with injuries ranging from broken arms, hypothermia, shock and spinal trauma. They started to perform rescues of the casualties nearest to the bank, utilising throw bags and reach poles.USAR arrived on scene next and immediately launched the rescue sled, Pioneer and Avon boats and started to rescue casualties. HART and NORLSAR then arrived and started to set up for joint operations. Crews rescued all the casualties from the water and conducted a search of the car using underwater camera equipment.

The driver was pronounced as deceased and left in situ for further investigation by the police.  After a brief from the Police search advisor, NORLSAR conducted a search of the lake with Hooky, the USAR search dog and his handler Steve Polley, they found the missing children who were suffering from hypothermia and were put into foil bags to heat them up. The exercise was concluded at 20:30hrs.

In total, including responders, observers and volunteers there were over 90 personnel at the exercise. The whole incident site covered approximately 480,000 square meters.

All of the aims and objectives were fully tested by the exercise and all learning points will be fed into future operations and exercises.  

Group Manager Peter Holliday (water rescue project manager for Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service) said “This challenging water rescue exercise tested all responding agencies and gave a realistic scenario for the different organisations to test their own procedures and to test the inter agency coordination and cooperation that is needed at such an incident.  All agencies were fully involved and the joint working in arduous conditions was exceptional, leading to all of the objectives being achieved in a relatively short time period.  Exercises like this one are necessary to test equipment, training, policies and procedures to ensure that if the worst happens we are all prepared both within our own organisations and as a partnership, joining forces to reach a satisfactory conclusion to any disaster.  Congratulations go to the organising team for putting on such a good, testing and safe exercise.”

Exercise 'Tartarus'

Exercise 'Tartarus' Sweyn Close Thetford

Exercise Tartarus 17th May 2011, Sweyn Close Thetford.

Norfolk hosted USAR teams from Essex and Kent along with our own USAR team and Thetford fire crews for a highly realistic exercise in Thetford.The exercise, which was organised by Craig Keeley from USAR Red Watch, was designed to simulate a gas explosion affecting a terrace of seven houses with multiple persons reported.The exercise site is being redeveloped by Lovells in association with Flagship Housing and they very kindly offered to allow NFRS to use the site for a "live‟ training scenario before the houses were demolished.

USAR Red Watch then worked very closely with Anglian Demolition to achieve a highly realistic enactment of partially collapsed houses. Anglian Demolition provided actors for the crowd scene at the start of the exercise which added to the realism and gave the first attending crews plenty to contend with.The aims of the exercise were as follows

  • To recreate a realistic incident to enable fire crews to demonstrate their initial actions on arrival.
  • To test the ICS system specifically relating to the integration of multiple USAR teams into the Norfolk structure.
  • To test the mobilisation of the NFRS USAR team under realistic conditions.
  • To demonstrate the core functions of the fire crews and USAR teams at a large scale building collapse based around the USAR model of REPEAT.

On arrival the Thetford crew were confronted with seven partially collapsed terraced houses with live casualties shouting from the upper floors, they were also met by the crowd of distressed residents who were highly agitated and concerned for their relatives. A make-up was quickly put in and the crews carried out initial snatch rescues as well as setting up the ICS infrastructure.

The Norfolk USAR crew was in attendance 30 minutes after the initial attendance with Kent and Essex teams not far behind. Hooky the search dog and his handler, Steve Polley also attended along with the search dog from Essex who was undergoing training.In total 9 casualties were rescued alive, but the crews also had to deal with a very realistic fatality.SM Jon Wilby said “For me this was further exposure to the skills and the equipment that our USAR team can bring to a complex incident.” “The exercise also highlighted USAR techniques, procedure and formalised process for carrying out searches of collapsed buildings”.

CFO Nigel Williams also visited the exercise "as an exercise this was as real as it gets".For further information please contact WM Duncan Barrow

Exercise Leap Frog

Exercise 'Leap Frog' RAF Waddington

Exercise 'Leap Frog' 0300 on 09 September 2007 - 1800 on 10 September 2007 RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire.

This exercise was Norfolk USAR Team's first proper functional test.

This involved the full team mobilising to Lincolshire in a phased deployment both by road and by air.

The duration of the exercise was 39 hours.  A total of 60 personnel were involved throughout.  Multi-agency involvement included, Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service including USAR, Lincolnshire Paramedics, Casualty Union, REST and Royal Air Force Search and Rescue.

Exercise 'Frosty Sprint'

Exercise 'Frosty Sprint' RAF Waddington Lincolnshire

Ex Frosty Sprint 16-17th Dec 2010 RAF Waddington Lincolnshire Norfolk USAR deployed 04.00hrs Dec 16th to RAF Waddington for 36hrs. This was a very challenging exercise dealing with a large gas explosion which had collapsed several large buildings including office , commercial and domestic properties.

The Aims / Objectives for the Exercise were as follows: Mobilise and deploy personnel and equipment safely to the incident; 
·         Establish a suitable Incident Command System at a USAR incident;
·         Consolidate this year’s training;
·         Demonstrate the appropriate techniques to carryout rescues, BB, Tech Search, L&M, Shoring , 
·         Safely operate the provided USAR equipment during various Rescues; 
·         Safely complete Rope rescues; 
·         Demonstrate appropriate Casualty Management; 
·         Liaise with other  agencies; 
·         Use suitable field craft and manage team and personnel welfare issues living in Exercise  accommodation; 
·         Carryout effective handovers and debriefs to oncoming Rescuers;

The team was joined by Lincolnshire USAR , Greater Manchester USAR , and East Hazardous Area Response Team to resolve the incident. Faced with temperatures as low as -12 degrees and driving snow all team performed admirably affecting many live rescues sub surface and in very confined conditions. Hot cutting equipment was used on the rubble pile to great effect allowing teams to gain access quickly so that the structure could be supported prior to rescue.  ‘Hooky’ the search dog proved to be a vital asset even in the sub zero temperatures giving search teams good indications as to where potential live victims were under the surface some 20m below.

A 23 stone bariatric casualty was rescued  from 60m down a shaft and tunnel system using a complex rope and winching system. 

Air line breathing apparatus was used to great success penetrating some 90m into the risk area for durations of up to 2hrs.

A quote from GM Herrell – Incident Commander -‘Having sat in on numerous  USAR presentations in the past and looked around the vehicles etc,  there is no substitute for getting involved and witnessing the deployment at first hand if you want to get the full understanding of what USAR can do.’  I would also like to say a big thank you to all the live casualties and Ex safety / support staff who helped to make the exercise such a success , I hope everyone has thawed out by now.

Exercise Orion

Exercise 'Orion' Gwydyr, Hampshire

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service played host to a major European exercise in September 2010. Funded by the European Union, Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service took part in a multi agency disaster exercise to test resilience and European partnership working.  Exercise Orion was led by Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service but the practical element was hosted at Fort Widley in Hampshire from September 6 to September 10.

It was a simulated earthquake scenario with the epicentre under Fort Widely on Portsdown Hill, outside Portsmouth. This unlikely scenario was selected to test parts of the UK’s national resilience and how international help might be incorporated in a catastrophic emergency.

Exercise Orion tested the UK’s response to this large-scale disaster to the limit, eventually exhausting some specialist aspects of UK capacity. At this point the Cabinet Office will activate an assistance request from other countries through the EU civil protection mechanism.  Countries that are sent teams to assist the UK for this exercise are Germany, Italy, Spain, Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

A further search and rescue team from the United Arab Emirates will also be participating.  Norfolk USAR attended with Modules 1, 2 and 3 along with the Search Dog and crew bus. Some 20 personnel made up 2 teams for the deployment.

Exercise 'broken wing'

Exercise 'broken wing' Gwydyr, North Wales

A major multi-agency emergency exercise, Exercise Broken Wing, took place in North Wales recently.

The exercise was co-ordinated by Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service’s Urban Search and Rescue team.  Alan Nicholls, from the Norfolk team, said: “The exercise was designed mainly to see how well our Urban Search and Rescue teams are equipped to mobilise and deploy personnel and equipment safely to a large scale incident, such as an aircraft disaster, in remote areas. It also aimed to test skills such as rope rescue, search management, hot cutting, chain saw and heavy transport rescue techniques.”

Exercise Broken Wing was held over two days in the Gwydyr Forest and involved 106 personnel from the following organisations : six USAR Teams , Mountain Rescue, RAF Search & Rescue , North Wales Air Support , North Wales POLSA, Norfolk POLSA , Norfolk Paramedics , North West Paramedics . The Army supported the event by providing the accommodation for the duration at Capel Curig Training Camp.

The scenario was as follows, two aircraft had collided in mid air and crashed  somewhere over Gwydyr Forest. USAR teams were deployed to help search for the missing aircraft along with the crew and passengers. The first day and night was the main ‘Wide Area’ Search & Rescue phase followed by a day of  rope rescue scenarios, transport incidents and hot cutting tasks.

The main exercise objectives were:

  • Mobilise and deploy personnel and equipment safely to the incident;
  • Establish a suitable Incident Command System at a Wide Area Search incident;
  • Carryout helicopter operations ,transporting resources , slinging loads safely;
  • Carryout command functions , Tactical decision making and prioritise search activities with the resources available;
  • Safely operate the provided USAR equipment during various rescues;
  • Demonstrate safe navigation during day and night;
  • Safely complete rope rescues;
  • Demonstrate appropriate Casualty Management;
  • Liaise with other multi agencies;
  • Use suitable field craft and manage team and personnel welfare issues living in exercise  accommodation;
  • Carryout effective handovers and debriefs to oncoming rescuers;

Alan Nicholls said: “Exercise Broken Wing was designed to be a challenging test and, overall, all objectives were met, the event was a great success. The resources used for and running of the exercise were second to none and the feedback from those who attended has been extremely positive. The Norfolk Team would  like to thank everyone who took part and also convey our thanks to the Army and to Capel Curig camp who accommodated us.”

Exercise Watermark

Exercise 'Watermark'

Multi-agencies took part in a huge national exercise which test flood evacuation plans the length and breath of the country. 

Exercise Watermark took place between March 6 and 11 2011 and tested responses from agencies to a range of scenarios which could occur during a flood emergency. 

The tabletop exercise took place in Essex and saw multiple agencies including fire, police, ambulance, councils and businesses taking part to test the response if Essex were to succumb to major flooding. 

All involved received injects from the national exercise control centre in Fareham, Hampshire and had to feed in exactly what would be happening in Essex to the national exercise. 

This nationwide exercise involved more than 3,500 emergency service workers at 62 different events nationwide, simulating major flooding. 

On top of this a bolt on live exercise took place at the end of the week in Ardleigh Reservoir. The live exercise tested water rescue, logistics and incident command systems as well as giving crews a chance to test the procedures and equipment associated with large scale flooding. 

Fire crews, police, ambulance, the army and RNLI amongst others took part in a simulated rescue of 120 people from a flooded town.

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Gordon Hunter, Chairman of Essex Resilience Forum, said: “After the major flooding which the UK was hit with in 2007 it is important that all agencies are ready for this type of incident.

“Exercise Watermark gives us a chance to test our procedures to ensure that should the worst happen we are ready to deal with anything.”

Direct Gov | Our Disclaimer | Norfolk County Council

Copyright ©2011 NFRS. All Rights Reserved. Hosted by Astutech