We train every Tuesday evening and also attend both day and weekend courses through the year. Our training is varied and regular but most importantly it is conducted by qualified professionals including senior Search and Rescue and Mountain Rescue instructors, Cheshire Police, Cheshire Fire and Rescue, healthcare professionals and other agencies and companies.
All new members must attend regular training sessions after which they will be required to pass a Search Technician course and Basic Trauma and Critical Care course before being added to the call out register. The ongoing syllabus for all members includes the following:
Experienced team members will also attend advanced and specialist training areas including:
All of our team members are required to complete the RTACC first aid course as part of their induction. It's a highly focused emergency care course for those who may be dealing with casualties who have life threatening conditions, in inhospitable environments where help is not necessarily close at hand.
RTACC has been developed to allow easy and quick identification of casualties considered to be "time critical", needing immediate life saving actions, and those who are stable enough to monitor and await assistance. It's a far more advanced qualification than the basic level required for a Lowland SAR team, but we feel is more appropriate preparation for what our team members may face out on a search or while supporting the statutory emergency services in other ways.
Classroom lectures are consolidated by a variety of scenario based learning, using actors (and some very realistic prosthetics and make up!) to recreate the kind of typical situations a team member may encounter while on a live search. It's an intense way to learn, but many of the team members have found a need to use these skills for real at home, work or while travelling around on the roads as well as when they're out and about with the team!
Working on or even near to the water requires specialist training, and while the Coastguard looks after Cheshire’s coastline from the high water mark, it’s a county with some significant waterways – such as the Manchester Ship Canal and River Mersey.
Many of our search areas include lakes, rivers, canals, water-filled quarries and increasingly we are being asked to assist with flooding incidents.
All members must complete water safety awareness training and new members must pass a Water Rescue First Responder course as part of their compulsory basic training. We also have 15 Swift Water Rescue Technicians (Defra Module 3 level). This training allows us to safely search in and around water and provide search and rescue cover in flooding incidents.
The team has 24 Drysuits with full PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) and a rescue sled which was very kindly donated by the Kennel Club Charitable Trust.
The ability to navigate accurately in a variety of environments and in all weathers is an essential skill for all members of the team. To accomplish this all members are trained and assessed to NNAS Bronze standard as a minimum. This standard involves navigation in the countryside using paths, tracks and other linear features, basic map interpretation and compass work.
All team members are encouraged to progress to NNAS Silver level and indeed this level of expertise is mandatory for those team members who wish to become party leaders. The NNAS Silver level involves more precise navigation over upland terrain often not using footpaths! In order to maintain their level of expertise the team participate in orienteering exercises, nighttime navigating and a mix of rural and urban map exercises usually linked to a search exercise.
Communications play a massive part in the role of Search and Rescue. Each member of the team must be able to communicate vital information from the scene of an incident back to the controlling station in order to effect a speedy and safe evacuation of a casualty. Team members can find themselves communicating with other emergency services such as Police, Ambulance, Fire and Rescue services and Mountain Rescue. They could also be called upon to speak to Search and Rescue helicopters, guiding them into tricky and difficult landing areas. Being able to communicate effectively in these circumstances is vital.
To aid their skills, each team member is taught how to operate a variety of VHF radios and on occasion, specialist radios supplied by the police depending on the circumstances of the search or rescue. Team members can find themselves in difficult situations which require a calm train of thought and a need to act quickly and professionally. To counter these circumstances the team carry out simple but effective voice procedure training which combines navigation and medical scenarios to practice the passage of information. This provides team members with the ability to communicate effectively and with confidence in their roles within Search and Rescue.