Go-ahead given for global search and rescue firm to provide back-up to Surrey firefighters (From Redhill And Reigate Life)
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Go-ahead given for global search and rescue firm to provide back-up to Surrey firefighters
6:52pm Monday 29th October 2012 in News
A global leader in search and rescue is to join forces with Surrey firefighters in the first deal of its kind in the UK.
World renowned rescue firm Specialist Group International will provide round the clock support to Surrey Fire and Rescue Service for operations where it has unique expertise thanks to county councillors giving the proposed deal the thumbs-up last week.
Surrey County Council's cabinet voted to go ahead with pursuing an agreement, although the contract was still to be signed as Life went to press this week.
The county council would not comment on the cost of the deal while the pilot one-year contract was still outstanding for commercial reasons.
But the move was attacked by the Fire Brigades Union who said the county council should be boosting the number of firefighters rather than paying money to a private firm.
Dorking-based Specialist Group International, which has recently helped in the search for missing Welsh girl April Jones, has expertise particularly in river and confined space rescues.
It recruits mainly from the military and has provided training nationally for firefighters, police officers and the armed forces.
Chief executive Peter Faulding, who founded the company in 1995, is considered the world’s leading expert in confined space rescue, such as in collapsed buildings. He recently made headlines when he was asked to perform suffocation tests on a sports holdall during the inquest into the death of former MI6 spy Gareth Williams. Mr Faulding also advises the UK Government and has advised the FBI in search techniques. Specialist Group International has an arsenal of cutting edge equipment at its disposal, including a helicopter which would provide vital intelligence from the air during wild fires and other major incidents, a fleet of inflatable boats for use in water rescues and during floods, a fleet of 4x4 vehicles for rescues in hard-to-reach places and in extreme winter weather, and a remote control submarine, side scan sonar and camera equipment for locating missing persons.
It also has a specialist dive team, which would make Surrey the first fire service nationally to have an underwater search capability, and a specialist rope rescue team for cliff and tower crane rescue.
Kay Hammond, Surrey County Council’s cabinet member for community safety, said: “Specialist Group International is the best in the world at what it does and would provide rescue expertise we don’t currently have in a cost effective way. “This groundbreaking deal is the first time a rescue company has provided permanent back-up to a fire service.”
Coun Hammond, who is also chairman of the Local Government Association’s Fire Services Management Committee, said: “Most importantly, this will make Surrey a safer place. “For example, more people die in incidents in the water than need to be rescued from house fires, so enhancing this capability will save lives.”
All fire and rescue services are required by law to have contingencies in place when resources are stretched, such as during a major incident, industrial action or a flu pandemic. Specialist Group International would support the fire service in keeping the county safe in such circumstances.