UK International Search & Rescue Team (UK-ISAR)

The United Kingdom International Search & Rescue Team (UK-ISAR) provides an international search and rescue facility for the UK Government and is on call 24 hours-a-day, 365 days-a-year to respond to an accident or disaster anywhere in the world. Civilience Limited has a good working relationship with UK-ISAR and we have worked with UK-ISAR on a number of projects. One of these was the development of an IEC Team Leaders & Mentors Course, delivered in 2012, details of which are below.


When help is required

UK-ISAR is the official search & rescue response of the UK Government and will only respond and send teams if a request has been made at government level. UK-ISAR cannot and will not respond uninvited, as experience has showed that such help often causes problems for the host country. The request has to be made by the government of the affected country or the United Nations representative in that country. Once any request for assistance is received and approved, usually by the Department for International Development (DFID), mobilisation is organised and co-ordinated by the Command Support Centre which will be in either Hampshire FRS or West Midlands FRS dependant on the rota.

If there is any doubt about the need for deployment, a member of the UK-ISAR management group may be sent to the area to assess the needs of the community & deployment will be made on their instruction. Alternatively, DFID may wait for confirmation of the need to deploy from any UNDAC team tasked with reconnaissance and disaster assessment. Despite these safeguards to prevent unnecessary deployment and waste of resources, all involved with UK-ISAR are aware of the imperative for quick and effective action when lives are at risk. UK-ISAR has shown consistently that it can deploy within a few hours to any country in the world and bring effective resources to bear upon many types of disaster.

Working with UK-ISAR

Developing the IEC/R Team Leaders Course

UK-ISAR and Civilience worked together to develop the INSARAG IEC/R Team Leaders and Mentors training course. The course was designed to support and improve the quality and standard of the INSARAG External Classification and Reclassification programme and aimed to increase the awareness of and improve the consistency of INSARAG classification and reclassification methodologies amongst experienced classifiers at Team Leader or Deputy Team Leader level and amongst those individuals acting as Mentors for teams undergoing the IEC/R process. The course scenario was based on a number of imaginary USAR teams, both Heavy USAR and Medium USAR, applying for both IEC and IER events.

The objective of the INSARAG IEC/R Team Leaders and Mentors training course is to improve the quality of the INSARAG External Classification and Reclassification programme by:

Improving the consistency of the assessment process

Providing guidelines to assist in the standardisation of the assessment process

Improving the management of the IEC/R process through greater understanding of all the stakeholders

Improving communication between the stakeholders in the IEC/R process

Creating awareness of the potential problems and areas of contention within the IEC/R process

Clarifying areas of doubt and inconsistency within the IEC/R checklist

A pilot course was successfully held in the UK in 2012 and second course deliveried in 2013. If you or your organisation would like to know more about the IEC/R Team Leaders and Mentors Course, please contact Civilience by calling us or sending an email to

More about UK-ISAR


The UK International Search and Rescue Team (UK-ISAR) has components supplied by 15 UK Fire and Rescue Services (FRS). Each service undertakes to provide a 6-person team of search and rescue specialists. The team work a rota system ensuring that at least 36 search and rescue specialists are available at any one time for overseas deployment. Specific groups also provide command, logistical and medical support in order to ensure that the team is self-sufficient and meets all the requirements of the INSARAG system.

There are fifteen brigades in the United Kingdom that have contracted to provide an international search & rescue team within UK-ISAR. Typically, each FRS team consists of between 12 and 20 personnel and therefore approximately 150 - 200 firefighters make up UK-ISAR. The team operates a 2 group rota and therefore, at any one time about 40 - 60 firefighters are on immediate standby duty. The team is registered and accredited by the United Nations INSARAG system as a heavy search and rescue resource and is available for immediate deployment 365 days-a-year. The accreditation ensures that the elements supplied by the team (i.e. technical and canine search, rescue including heavy lifting and moving, shoring and breaking and breaching and a command, logistics and medical element) are what will be required in the host country post disaster.