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Urban search and rescue team

Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service has one of 20 urban search and rescue teams that exist across England and Wales.


Following the attack on the World Trade Centre in New York on 11 September 2001, the Minister with responsibility for fire requested HM Chief Inspector of Fire Services to examine as a matter of urgency the fire service's ability to respond to major incidents.

National Resilience (formerly known as New Dimensions) was subsequently established to evaluate fire and rescue services' capability and to make recommendations to ensure that the fire service is sufficiently trained and equipped to deal with large-scale major incidents.

Urban search and rescue (USAR) is one of the projects that was created from this review. It resulted in the formation of 20 teams hosted by 19 services across England and Wales. USAR is funded directly by central government.

What the team does

The USAR teams are distributed into four zones across England. The teams have the capacity to deal with two simultaneous incidents across the UK. 

The primary function of USAR is to deal with building collapses and large transport incidents. However, since its introduction within Norfolk it has evolved locally to also include:

  • Confined space rescues
  • Missing person searches
  • Rescues from height
  • Local and national flood response
  • Water rescues
  • Bariatric rescue
  • Animal rescue
  • Marauding terrorist attack (MTA) response

About the team

The team within Norfolk is based at Dereham. It includes 14 full-time firefighters and technicians, split into two watches. They provide cover 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The full-time staff is supported by 16 on-call USAR technicians who provide cover on a part-time basis.

The team also comprises a fully trained search dog and handler.

Read more about Axel, our four-legged member of USAR, and his adventures on our Facebook page. (opens new window)