By James Buck, HART Paramedic, East Midlands Ambulance Service.
Whilst with the fire departments both Jenny and I worked alongside their paramedic/firefighters both on their standard appliances but also their HazMat unit for the area and responded to a call involving a shipping container at their port where a gas alarm had activated.
In addition to this we were also able to drill with them in USAR/rope access and confined space techniques and offer a UK perspective on USAR, HazMat and overall scene management.
In total we spent two shifts working with the fire departments and they in turn were very impressed with the speed at which HART had developed in the UK and were very interested to hear of its developments and training.
The federal task USAR task forces are in addition to the state resources and each state assesses its own risk. There are 28 task forces in the USA and each has 70 staff who are made up of paramedics/fire fighters, two doctors, structural engineers, communications specialists and search dog teams.
They all have at least three roles that they can perform, ie: paramedic, search specialist and communications engineer. They take their staff from the local state authorities (fire departments etc) and are then deployed nationally – often by air.
If an incident occurs in the task force’s own region, they are ‘blanked out’ as it is assumed that the staff they have on call will be busy with their local fire departments/authorities. All equipment is pre-packed onto air force approved cargo pallets and an articulated lorry for easy aircraft loading.
Both Hayward and Long Beach fire departments have offered the opportunity for staff to ride along with them to gain experience over in the USA. Contact james.Buck@emas.nhs.uk in the first instance.