Meet Urban Search and Rescue's four-legged member!

Sun 1 Dec, 2019


USAR dog Huw and handler Watch Commander Alan Still


The newest fully-fledged member of Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service’s USAR (Urban Search and Rescue) team is just over two years old and has four legs!

After 18 months of training, Huw, a chocolate Lab/Springer cross, or Springador, has passed his National Resilience grading with handler Watch Commander Alan Still. The duo are now ready for deployment to assist with local and national incidents.

Huw is trained as a live scent detection dog and has the ability to recognise and concentrate on the specific odour given off by live people. When he detects the correct scent, he informs his handler with a consistent and strong bark to pinpoint the location.

This rapid approach can assist USAR crews by drawing their attention to specific areas of focus which increase the overall chances of survival.

When not at work, Huw lives with Alan and his family at their home in Buckinghamshire. He is likely to have a working life of at least six years, and will continue to live with them when he retires. You can follow them on Twitter here.

Station Commander Kevin Mercer from Aylesbury Fire Station said: “Congratulations to Huw and Alan, who now proudly support a small team of USAR dog units nationally.

“Their constant training and dedication over an 18-month period, and a great deal of hard work, have paid off.”

Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) forms part of the government’s New Dimension programme, which seeks to enhance the capability of the fire and rescue service to respond to a range of major emergencies. 

Aylesbury Fire Station is part of a national network of bases for the people, vehicles, dogs and equipment needed in the aftermath of major incidents such as collapsed buildings, major transportation incidents, natural disasters and terrorist activity. 

The USAR programme was established following the 9/11 attack on New York in 2001. This marked a turning point in the challenge posed by international terrorism, and prompted the government to review and improve the country’s ability to respond to the increased risks.

The USAR training and equipment, coupled with the knowledge, experience, skills and dedication of all our USAR-trained staff, significantly strengthens our robust emergency response provision.

Although major disasters and terrorist incidents lead to the biggest headlines, there are a range of other emergencies that we must also be prepared for, both nationally and locally.

As well as being able to cope with a range of unexpected disruptive events, such as building collapses and natural disasters, the USAR team regularly works alongside firefighters to enhance public safety at incidents in and beyond Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes. These include road traffic collisions involving large goods vehicles, farm fires and incidents which leave buildings unstable.

The USAR crews at Aylesbury are equipped with four lorries, called prime movers, two personnel carriers and five modules containing specialist equipment.