UK International Search and Rescue (UKISAR)

Logo for United Kingdom International Search and Rescue

The primary function of UKISAR is to respond on behalf of HM Government to overseas emergencies, usually involving search and rescue from collapsed structures. Its volunteer members are on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

What is UKISAR?

Formed in 1993, UKISAR consists of volunteers from 15 fire and rescue services (FRSs). Each service contributes competent personnel and equipment when requested.

The current team structure is classified by the United Nations as a ‘Heavy USAR Team’ (urban Search and Rescue) under the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG) guidelines. This means that the team has the capacity to support 24-hour search and rescue operations, at two independent locations, during a disaster.

Team members are deployed through the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) on behalf of the UK Government, following an international request for assistance from a disaster affected country.

West Midlands UKISAR

West Midlands Fire Service provides Command Support and Communications functions on all deployments, coordinated via an incident room at our HQ in Birmingham.

Due to the diverse range of skills and personal qualities required, our team members come from across the organisation and include operation and non-operational staff.

Team deployment
Our 21-strong team provide an 8-person Command Support cell for immediate response to disasters world-wide. In line with United Nations guidelines, the entire national team will be packed and ready to deploy to an affected country within 10 hours of an official request for assistance.

This enables the team to arrive in the affected country as soon as possible after the disaster occurs, ensuring the greatest window of opportunity to help those in need. The team is fully self-sufficient for periods of up to 14 days.

Disaster response
Over the last 25 years the team has successfully carried out search, rescue and relief missions in Iraq, Bosnia, Turkey, Mozambique, Iran, Pakistan, Indonesia, Haiti, New Zealand, Japan and Nepal. Members have also attended many international training exercises including Poland, Italy, USA, and Germany.

Logo for INSARAG - the United Nations Search and Rescue Arm
Logo for UK Aid, who form part of the Department For International Development

Other useful links!

Our Plan | In an emergency | Flooding | Careers


The team can be deployed almost anywhere in the world. Click on the tabs below for an overview of their more recent work and some photos.

Nepal earthquake – 25 April 2015

UK International Search & Rescue (UKISAR) deployed at the request of the Government of Nepal.

A  7.9 earthquake struck the country, killing more than 7,900 people, injuring 18,000 and destroying more than two million homes.

Japan earthquake – 11 March 2011

Japan’s most powerful earthquake since records began struck the north-east coast, triggering a massive tsunami.

Cars, ships and buildings were swept away by a wall of water following the 8.9-magnitude tremor, which struck about 400km (250 miles) north-east of Tokyo.

New Zealand earthquake – 22 Feb 2011

A team from West Midlands Fire Service deployed to New Zealand following a 6.3 magnitude earthquake that struck at 11.51pm GMT.

Haiti earthquake – 12 January 2010

At approximately 4.53pm local time, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake was recorded off the coast, only 17 km from the capital Port-au-Prince. The city was severely affected, with a large number of casualties and widespread damage.

Other useful links!

Our Plan | In an emergency | Flooding | Careers

Charity Work

It’s not just here in the West Midlands that our staff work to tackle vulnerability and help people in dire need.

Our UKISAR team has been involved in several charity projects in Tanzania, for an orphanage and a girls’ home. During one trip to the orphanage an ICT network and computers provided by WMFS were fitted by the team. On a separate trip, a physiotherapy area was fully refurbished, including building works and rewiring. At the girls’ school, a brand new washroom and cooking facilities were built from scratch.

See some photos of the team’s work below.

Our UKISAR team went to Tanzania to build kitchen facilities for Kwetu Mbagala Girls’ Home. It provides support for abused and vulnerable girls who may have been trafficked or are at risk of it, or who because of poverty may end up on the city’s streets as sex workers or being exploited in other ways.

Kwetu Mbagala Girls Home 2013 - ISAR Kwetu Mbagala Girls Home 2013 - ISAR

The focus for the team’s 2010 trip was providing wheelchairs and prosthetic limbs as well as raising money to covert a classroom at a Tanzanian orphanage into an IT training room.

This aim of this trip to the orphanage was to refurbish its physiotherapy facility.

The extensive work involved making wiring safe and rewiring , ceiling replacement and replacing windows with mosquito net frames. Finally, the building was spruced up and painted inside and out. The team also supplied four fans for volunteer staff who live on site and care for the children.

Tanzania Matumaini 2011 - ISAR Tanzania Matumaini 2011 - ISAR

Other useful links!

Our Plan | In an emergency | Flooding | Careers