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Unstable or collapsed structures

Structural collapse can be caused in many ways: naturally (e.g. natural deterioration, earthquake, subsidence or flood water), accidentally (e.g. explosion, impact or fire), or by deliberate actions (e.g. terrorist attack or explosive device).

The possibility of collapse is also present in unstable structures. The reason for the instability could be due to one of the reasons above or could be the result of dereliction or bad workmanship.

When structures become unstable or collapse, the fire and rescue service is the best placed emergency service to respond. Individual services have the knowledge, skills, experience and equipment to deal with these environments and the UK fire and rescue service has a national network of trained urban search and rescue (USAR) operatives.

Urban search and rescue (USAR) teams are provided across the UK and are strategically located to ensure that response can be relatively rapid, co-ordinated and consistent. As part of this national network, some USAR personnel are designated as USAR tactical advisors and can be called on by the fire and rescue service to give advice on the resources available and how mobilising and tactical procedures can be used to resolve this type of incident.

Further information on the USAR capability can be found on the CFOA National Resilience website.

The issue for attending fire and rescue service personnel is that these environments are unpredictable. They are also labour intensive and arduous to work in.