Specialist search and rescue teams are making their partnership with county firefighters ‘official’ under a new agreement that boosts resilience for emergency situations across the county.
The Northamptonshire Search and Rescue charity was set up in 2013 mainly to help police in locating vulnerable or high-risk missing persons.
But its expertise has grown and resources improved, leading to volunteers being increasingly involved in supporting fire crews at a variety of incidents.
Rescuers worked alongside the fire service to evacuate hundreds of Billing Aquadrome residents as flooding hit parts of the county over Christmas 2020.
The new agreement reinforces the partnership and provides a framework to improve joint operational activity, increasing response capacity.
Chief Fire Officer Darren Dovey said: “As demands on the fire service change, we want to embed collaborative and partnership working into our operations to ensure we can effectively meet emerging challenges and use all resources available to us efficiently and effectively.
“Collaboration provides us with an opportunity to build greater innovation into our response, promotes a more integrated approach and a broader skills base so we can continue to deliver the highest quality service to the public.”
Both organisations benefit from this new agreement with improved sharing of intelligence and specialist equipment, including incident support and welfare vehicles, as well as further specialist skills — such as swift water and flood rescue and drone operation.
Search and Rescue manager Neil Balderson said: “The agreement is testament to the professionalism and dedication of our team of volunteers.
“We have been working hard to make sure all our capabilities meet the rigorous standards set by the police initially and now by the fire service.
“We look forward to working and training more closely with colleagues in the fire service, supporting them and the people of Northamptonshire whenever the need arises."
The agreement is supported by county Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner.
Stephen Mold said: “I recently attended a Search and Rescue scenario-based training exercise involving two missing persons and saw first-hand the volunteers’ expertise and professionalism in managing a challenging situation.
“There is already a strong co-operation between NSAR and the fire service but I fully support a greater collaboration to maximise resources and skills and ultimately provide even better protection to county communities.”