There have been several large fires and major incidents in Surrey recently which have required neighbouring fire services to assist Surrey Fire and Rescue Service on a regular basis as they simply cannot cope due to lack of resources and firefighters due to the cuts made by Surrey County Council. It is leaving Surrey residents in a very vulnerable position when we have to rely on London Fire Brigade, Hampshire, Berkshire and Sussex Fire & Rescue Services to help out.
Painshill Fire Station post on their unofficial Facebook page several of the realities of what is happening in SFRS. Read their page to find out more (https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Government-Organization/Painshill-Fire-Station-unofficial-864668977048044/)
One post came to no surprise to us regarding Surrey SAR, in fact Surrey SAR volunteers were told not to comment on the post so as not to further damage the already fragile reputation between Surrey SAR and SFRS.
It is admirable that Surrey SAR helped out however SFRS needs its own firefighters to be trained and equipped for water rescues before more people lose their lives due to relying on SAR volunteers and the very obvious delays in getting resources to a scene.
On several occasions SFRS firefighters have complained to senior officers about the conduct of Surrey SAR from unprofessional and dangerous conduct including self deploying. It comes as no surprise to hear from SFRS that James Rossell and Seamus Kearns are the most complained about individuals in Surrey SAR by firefighters who really don’t like it when those two turn up.
The main concern of Surrey SAR’s water rescue team in this article is training & certification. Surrey SAR are now a Rescue 3 International training provider to deliver water rescue courses. During a recent audit by DEFRA the Surrey SAR water rescue team were requested to upload their Rescue 3 water rescue certificates. Several team members raised concerns over the authenticity of James Rossell’s qualifications.
Below is the certificate for James Rossell (Surrey SAR Trustee and member of the management team).
On the face of it it looks genuine and quite clearly implies that James Rossell completed all the requirements for a swift water and flood rescue technician during a course on 10/09/2018 on the River Awe in Scotland. These competencies have to be demonstrated in person and skill sheets are completed and signed off by the instructors. Mr Rossell’s skill sheets were recorded on 0932-0086137 and the instructor was Martin Blaker. If a lay person saw this certificate as evidence of qualification they would have no reason to doubt its authenticity.
However, James Rossell was NOT on that training course.
These are the people that attended
Surrey SAR’s Facebook from the time of the course has lots of photos of the people named above and NONE have Mr Rossell in them, only the people listed on D4H above. Everyone on that course knows that James Rossell did not attend it.
The instructor was Martin Blaker who holds senior roles in the RNLI and DEFRA. He also trains other Lowland Rescue teams. He is also a member of Surrey SAR although he doesn’t attend, has never been trained as a search technician. Mr Blaker was also a Trustee of Lowland Rescue.
Enquiries have been made with Rescue 3 regarding the authenticity of James Rossell’s certificate. Currently a check on their website (http://id.rescue3europe.com/) shows this
However, documentation seen by us from Rescue 3 confirms that it is a genuinely issued certificate and skill sheet 0932-0086137 was completed to support the certification.
As James Rossell was physically not on the course, he could not have demonstrated the skills to the instructor Martin Blaker. This raises integrity questions over Martin Blaker and James Rossell as to how this certificate is in existence.
Tim Rowsell is head of the water rescue team along with James Turnbull, both were on the course along with John Burrell who is also on the management team. Tim Rowsell works for the RNLI and is also a special constable in Surrey Police. He is fully aware of what is going on as many people in the water team raised concerns with him. With his RNLI and policing experience he should know the importance of training to high standards and what goes wrong if unqualified resources are used. Why is he not challenging James Rossell and the other Trustees? We expect better from a police officer and from someone in the RNLI.
Three of the management team were on that training course and none has challenged James Rossell over his certification. We expect better from all of the management team and this lack of challenging inappropriate/illegal behaviour illustrates why the Trustees and Management Team at Surrey SAR are not fit for purpose.
Steve Owen-Hughes (Chief Fire Officer of Surrey Fire and Rescue Service) is aware of this so why is he still allowing Surrey SAR to deploy to water rescue incidents when there are serious concerns over the authenticity of qualifications and training?
Would DEFRA and other organisations give Surrey SAR all of the financial grants if they knew that the qualifications were obtained in these circumstances?
Rescue 3 International are fully aware of what is going on at Surrey SAR and tried to cover it up by removing the bogus certificate from the database after initially confirming it was genuine. Can we trust Rescue 3 International as a training and qualification provider if false certification is issued and they don’t effectively deal with those bring their name into disrepute?
Can we trust Surrey SAR, Lowland Rescue and RNLI training qualifications if signed off by Martin Blaker?
The integrity of Mr Blaker is in question over this matter. He needs to explain how Mr Rossell has been certified as competent without attending the course and demonstrating the skills to him.
Can the public trust Lowland Rescue to provide water rescue assistance if their member units are not genuinely qualified?
There are many more questions surrounding this matter and it needs investigating further and the risk managing. Most importantly, are SFRS are putting lives at risk by using people from Surrey SAR with fraudulent qualifications? We think so and we think that SFRS and Surrey Police need to stop using Surrey SAR for water rescue until genuine proof of training can provided.
*** Rescue 3 declined to comment however they did state that if anyone who has received water rescue training from Surrey SAR or Martin Blaker wants to raise concerns in confidence with Rescue 3 they can contact Keith Dudhnath directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone on 01978 869069 ***