Disaster exercise tests firefighters

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AN ELITE squad of Hampshire firefighters have braved freezing temperatures of -16C as part of an international search and rescue exercise in Denmark.

The nine-man group, who are part of the UK’s International Search and Rescue team (UKISAR), camped out in the unforgiving conditions, tackling disaster simulations involving earthquakes and tsunamis.

The contingent from Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service worked with other UK firefighters and experts from France, Russia and Denmark.

Over the eight-day scenario they had to deal with four earthquakes that levelled homes, a school and hospital, as well as overturned cars and the carcass of a plane.

The exercise involved 160 people – including a pregnant woman made homeless by the disaster and a casualty who refused to be rescued by a man on religious and cultural grounds.

Base of operations manager Robin Bates, of Hampshire’s Urban Search and Rescue team and UKISAR said the exercise was vital.

‘Training exercises like this save lives – there is no doubt of that,’ he said.

‘These scenarios give you the chance to practise your skills in a way that is as close to a real event as possible.

‘You also get the chance to co-operate with other teams and see how this would work in a real disaster situation.’