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Ten years in the hot zone

A specialist team of London Ambulance Service staff is celebrating 10 years of saving lives in the most challenging and dangerous environments.

Our HART medics take part in a Urban Search and Rescue exercise with colleagues from the London Fire Brigade.
Our HART medics take part in a Urban Search and Rescue exercise with colleagues from the London Fire Brigade.

HART (Hazardous Area Response Team) is made up of paramedics trained to reach badly injured patients in the earliest and most vital moments of an incident by navigating perilous environments such as train crashes or the scenes of terrorist attacks.

HART members must be able to make vital clinical decisions while dealing with patients in collapsed buildings, floods, chemical spills, confined spaces or up skyscrapers, rooftops or tower cranes.

“All HART paramedics need to be clinically confident and have the ability to think quickly and rationally,” said Revd Simon Woodmore, London Ambulance Service HART Operations Officer.

“Their extra training and skills allow this clinical care to be started earlier rather than waiting for the patient to be removed from the incident first.”

Before the formation of the specialist unit, paramedics would have to wait for fire and rescue crews to bring out casualties from the scene before starting treatment. Given this could result in unnecessary loss of life, HART was formed in 2006 and now plays a vital role in the UK’s preparedness for disasters and incidents of terrorism. Having been initially trialled by London Ambulance Service and Yorkshire Ambulance Service, HART is now operational in every NHS ambulance service in England and Wales.

“All incidents have their own unique challenges,” Simon explained. “The Croydon tram derailment and the Apollo Theatre roof collapse stand out as the most challenging.
“However some of the most dangerous have included where patients have attempted to use chemicals to commit suicide. Clinically examining and recovering these patients can be challenging when wearing chemical suits in confined areas.”

HART members undergo 40 hours of training every seven weeks in various training environments such as stretches of water to support swift water rescue, tower cranes, building sites, disused buildings and some training sites that have been developed by the staff themselves such as a tunnel system.

London Ambulance Service has two HART teams who work 24/7 and are split between bases at Canning Town and Isleworth.


Notes to editors:

  • HART was formed in 2006 as part of the ambulance service’s response to a major incident. The aim of HART is to deliver clinical care in environments that paramedics historically could not enter. This includes the ‘hot zone’ of chemical incidents, collapsed structures, flooding, at height or confined space.
  • HART responds to an average of 16,366 incidents per year. In 2015, HART responded to 17,460 incidents and was deployed into hazardous areas at over 11,857 incidents.
  • Some of the most well-known incidents HART has been involved in: Croydon Tram Crash, Apollo Theatre Roof Collapse, Battersea Helicopter Crash, Larkenhall Fire, Wraysbury Flooding, Thames DUKW fire, Bethnal Green Train derailment. They also include reaching vulnerable people at height, protestors at height, cardiac arrests at heights (eg tower cranes), house explosions, bus crashes, fires and water based incidents.
  • HART uses a variety of specialist equipment including: breathing apparatus, chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear protective suits, detection identification monitoring equipment, working at height harnesses, dry suits, life jackets, mass casualty equipment cubes, triage packs and tactical medicine personal protective equipment.
  • The Service is currently in the process of increasing its number of HART staff to 84.
  • For more information about this news release contact the Communications team on 020 7783 2286.