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Control measure
Carry out a total coverage search and recovery (ASR level 5)

Control measure knowledge

The decision to transition to assessment, search and rescue (ASR) level 5 should be given serious consideration, especially if there remains any possibility that casualties may have survived in the structure.

During the rescue phase of a major structural collapse incident, the fire and rescue service will be responsible for rescue operations within the inner cordon. However, the incident will reach a point in time when the probability of further rescues becomes remote; the focus of the strategic co-ordination group (SCG) and the tactical co-ordination group (TCG) will move towards recovery operations. At this stage a decision may be taken to transfer responsibility for the inner cordon to the police.

ASR level 5 is usually carried out after all known casualties have been removed, with operations entering the ‘recovery phase’. However, there may be a need for ASR level 5 activities to be used during the rescue phase.

Urban Search and rescue (USAR) teams may be required to assist with further search and potential delamination of the building to either confirm that there are no more casualties, or to assist with body recovery.

General debris removal usually requires the use of heavy machinery, such as cranes and demolition equipment. This can be used to lift or move large elements of the debris pile. This activity may involve working with contractors to achieve access to expose voids and remove debris away from the site.

Many agencies may be involved with the recovery phase of an incident. If required to maintain a presence at scene, minimum numbers of rescue personnel should deployed while heavy machinery removes debris. If USAR personnel need to be committed onto the debris pile to perform specific actions, the use of heavy machinery should cease while these operations are being completed.

ASR level 5 activities may include:

  • Searching or making access into every possible survivable void using all available search techniques and equipment; this is often repeated as access is achieved
  • Assisting the police in Disaster Victim Identifications (DVI) including physical recovery of bodies and body parts, in accordance with the DVI protocols.
  • Assisting the police to recover personal and high-value items
  • Carrying out heavy and repeated breaking and breaching of structural elements
  • Lifting or moving large elements of the debris pile and working with heavy machinery
  • The need to work in enclosed or confined spaces, sometimes deep inside structures
  • Delayering large elements of the debris pile, to allow access to all parts of the collapsed structure
  • Working closely with structural engineers and demolition contractors to develop detailed recovery strategies and plans

Strategic actions

National Resilience should:
  • Maintain a register of other agencies that may be able to assist with USAR operations

Fire and rescue services should:
  • Request assistance from other agencies if required, using agreed protocols

Tactical actions

Specialist responders should:
  • Liaise with the incident commander or USAR co-ordination cell

  • Liaise with the police

  • Use all available techniques and equipment to carry out search and rescue activities

  • Review structural stability during activity

  • Liaise with other agencies

Incident commanders should:
  • Liaise with Hazardous Area Response Teams (HART) or the Special Operations Rescue Team (SORT)