Underwater Search & Recovery Diving Unit

Norfolk County Council's fire and rescue service has become the only fire service in the UK to operate a dive team after securing Government funding.

Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service has received £27,000 in grant funding from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to extend the capability of its Urban Search and Rescue Team (USAR).  This will allow the Dereham based team to undertake underwater search and recovery.

Three members of the USAR team, who already have extensive military and commercial diving experience, backed up by support provided by other USAR personnel, will be able to deploy when USAR responds to a search and recovery incident regionally, nationally and if necessary internationally. They will operate to the Police and Commercial diving regulations, which are strictly controlled.


The Underwater and Recovery Dive Team will be used for pre- planned diving operations and will be held on a national resilience resource register. It is anticipated that there will be at least 12 hours heads up from the Met Office to prepare for any deployment to a major flood.

The Underwater and Recovery Dive Team will also assist other agencies such as the Police with underwater search recovery operations. These will be chargeable services.
The types of incidents that the under water recovery dive team may be called to attend are as follows:

  • entrapped personnel in water (drains, grates, fences etc)
  • submerged vehicles
  • confined spaces and sewers
  • upturned or submerged boats
  • protection of critical infrastructure
  • body retrieval
  • underwater search (weapons , crime scene evidence)

Whilst the above list is not exhaustive it clearly demonstrates that the Service is expected to respond to, and operate safely and effectively at many incident types involving water.
Prescriptive procedures aimed at addressing every conceivable operational scenario would be impossible to formulate. However, so far as reasonably practicable, NFRS is committed to identifying and applying safe systems of work to all diving operations. In support of this principle, when deciding on operational tactics the Diving Supervisor (DS) should apply the Inland and Inshore Commercial Diving Projects Approved Code of Practice and apply procedures detailed within the ACPO Police Diving Manual, implement the Incident Command System and utilise the principles of risk assessment.

The underwater dive unit comprises of three divers and six diving attendants. The minimum dive team size for a flood deployment will be a team of six, three divers and three attendants. The diving contractor for the service is the ACFO. The Diving contractor has the main responsibility under Diving at Work Regulations. The diving contractor should ensure that the diving operation is planned, conducted and managed in a safe way.

For more information please contact us:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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