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New North East emergency firefighting centre for offshore workers welcomes first delegates

A new County Durham centre to train offshore workers in emergency firefighting has welcomed its first delegates through the doors after receiving approval from oil and gas training body, OPITO. 

The centre, which is a joint venture combining the expertise of AIS Survivex, the UK’s leading energy trainer and the real-world firefighting skills of Vital Fire Solutions (VFS), the trading arm of County Durham and Darlington Fire and RescueService (CDDFRS), is now accredited to run OPITO courses.

As well as offering Offshore Emergency Response Team Member (OERTM) and Offshore Emergency Response Team Leader (OERTL) courses, the facility received approval to run refresher training.

The first trainees have now successfully completed OPITO Offshore Emergency Response Team Member courses at the centre.

Passing its OPITO audit with flying colours marks an exciting milestone for the offshore emergency fire training facility, which is expected to attract thousands of offshore workers from across the UK every year to train in emergency response.

Located at the existing fire service Training Centreat Bowburn, the facility is being developed in two phases.

Phase two will see construction of a full-size helideck and helicopter simulator to mirror those on an offshore installation. Construction is expected to start in early 2023. Training in this type of setting makes the experience extremely realistic and prepares people for the real thing.

Emma Howorth, General Manager for England at AIS Survivex, said:

“We are delighted to pass our OPITO audits with flying colours and to welcome the first delegates on courses. It is testament to the hard work and dedication of the team and I would like to thank everyone involved for their efforts.

“When finished, the centre will offer ultra-realistic facilities supported by two leading experts in the field – the specialist expertise in firefighting training of VFS and AIS Survivex’s extensive knowledge of the offshore oil and gas market.

“There is a mandatory requirement for each offshore installation to have a minimum number of trained emergency firefighters and often members of the drill crew have emergency firefighting as a secondary role. This centre will therefore provide an important resource for the many offshore workers in County Durham and Teesside who want to train a little closer to home and add emergency firefighting to their skillset. It is conveniently located and I am confident will attract people to the area from much further afield as well.

“We are now looking forward to completing the second phase of the project and being able to offer the full portfolio of offshore firefighting courses.”

Steve Helps, CDDFRS’ Deputy Chief Fire Officer, said:

“I am extremely proud of the project team and everyone who has worked tirelessly, to ensure we passed the OPITO audit. Offering these courses will benefit both the offshore sector and the wider Northeast economy.

“This ground breaking project shows the service’s commitment to offer the highest standard of training and our investment in our state-of-the-art training facilities not only for our own staff but for external delegates.

“We welcome the AIS Survivex trainees and look to the future where we will further enhance the courses we can offer”