A former Australian paramedic and a keen climber are among the four latest recruits to join a specialist team in EMAS which provides ambulance responses to major incidents.
Richard Hill, Zoe Reynolds, Mark Blease and Ross Bates successfully made it through the tough selection process for the Hazardous Area Response Team (HART) and will begin their six-week training course in Salisbury on Monday, February 13.
HART are specially recruited and trained EMAS personnel who respond to major incidents. These may involve chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear, or other hazardous materials or could involve incidents such as train crashes, large-scale motorway accidents, building collapses or significant fires that have occurred as a result of an accident or have been caused deliberately.
But joining HART includes a challenging selection day involving crawling through a tunnel system in the dark, abseiling, swimming, completing exercises in a weighted vest, and carrying out clinical assessments.
Richard Hill, who has worked as a paramedic in Sydney, Australia, for the last 10 years, and is also a reserve paramedic for the RAF, explained that he applied to join HART as he wanted to work as part of a team again.
The 36-year-old from Ashbourne said: “As I normally respond to incidents in a car on my own, I wanted to work as part of a team again to be the best we could be. The additional training was also appealing.
“The selection day was great, but very tiring. The most difficult bit was crawling through a tunnel system and then trying to turn around at the end. As a 6ft 4” man it was a bit of a squeeze.
“I can’t wait to start the training now.”
Zoe Reynolds, 32, from Ripley, has always enjoyed caving and climbing so jumped at the chance to incorporate that into her day job by joining HART.
Zoe has been a paramedic with EMAS for six years and is currently based at Stapleford.
She said: “I love climbing and caving and doing outdoor things, so it will be great to be paid to do it too.
“A lot of the other people going for it were more experienced than me so I had no expectations, but I was pleasantly surprised when I was accepted.”
Ross Bates, 23, from East Leake, is the youngest recruit of the four. He has four years’ experience as a paramedic based in Birmingham with West Midlands Ambulance Service.
He said: “I wanted to move closer to home, and as I was applying to EMAS I saw they were recruiting in HART which I had always wanted to join.
“I’m looking forward to thinking laterally, honing my skills further and using them in high-pressure situations. I’m so excited to start it all now.”
However, Ross admitted that he is going to miss Buddy, his eight-month-old Labradoodle, as he heads off on the six-week residential training course.
He said: “I will be so sad to leave him.”
Mark Blease, 47, is also part of the latest intake. Mark worked as a paramedic in North Lincolnshire from 2010 before joining HART London.
After just a year in the capital city, Mark has decided to return to his ‘home service’.
Mark said: “I wanted to join the busiest HART in the country so I chose London because if something big was going to happen, it would happen there.
“I really enjoyed the training. You have to pinch yourself as you cannot believe you are getting paid to learn things like swift water rescue.
“I enjoyed my year in London but my family circumstances changed and EMAS is my home service, so I’m glad to be coming back.”
Sid Murphy, HART and Special Operations Manager at East Midlands Ambulance Service said: “Congratulations to the four paramedics who have successfully joined the EMAS HART. We look forward to each of them becoming an integral part of our team, providing high quality care to our patients, often in extreme or challenging circumstances and environments.”