The Welsh Ambulance Service is celebrating the fifth anniversary of its Hazardous Area Response Team (HART).
The HART team was launched on 1 July 2012 through funding from the Welsh Government, and consists of a specialist team of ambulance staff who are trained to provide life-saving care at major incidents.
They provide clinical care in hostile environments like industrial accidents and natural disasters, as well as chemical, biological, radioactive, nuclear and terrorist incidents.
Since it was launched, the Bridgend-based team has been involved in a number of high profile incidents, including industrial incidents and the serious flooding in Aberystwyth and Rhyl.
They have also played an important part in the planning for major events in Wales, including the 2012 Olympics, the NATO summit in Newport in 2014, and the recently held Champions League final in Cardiff.
Chris Sims, the Trust’s Head of Operations – Resilience and Specialist Operations, led the establishment of the team. He said:
“Introducing HART in Wales was an important step forward for us as a Trust and over the last five years our highly skilled team have attended some challenging incidents.
Our training and equipment means we are able to access patients in confined spaces, at height, in water and other challenging environments, where previously our operational crews would have had to wait for support from other agencies.
The training that our teams go through can sometimes be arduous and difficult but their commitment is exceptional.”
The nature of its work means HART team members may encounter traumatic scenes in their line of work.
However, to ensure staff welfare is taken care of, each team has a qualified trauma risk management practitioner to assess and sign post them to relevant support services.
The team complements the existing Special Operations Response Team, whose volunteer members are trained to provide decontamination, mass casualty equipment and mass oxygenation at major incidents.
The specially trained HART personnel work 24/7 and can deploy anywhere across Wales, and can also called upon to give clinical care to patients outside of a major incident as well as support other UK HART teams through mutual aid.
For the last three years running, HART has attained ‘excellent’ status in the annual resilience and capability surveys, which are carried out for all UK teams. Chris said:
“The skills of our team have developed significantly since we first went live, increasing their capabilities in specialist clinical areas, particularly for trauma patients.
Through their training our staff are also now able to respond to patients in swift water and flooding environments, which includes being able to rescue people from vehicles in water.
HART has also welcomed a number of additions to its fleet, including a 6×6 wheel drive all-terrain vehicle, which allows us to get to patients who would previously have been impossible to reach and get them safely back to a road ambulance while continuing their clinical care.
We are grateful for the continuing support from our Welsh Government, emergency service and other partners and we look forward to seeing where the next five years leads our dedicated team.”