New home for Borders Search and Rescue Unit

It may have taken 58 years but Border Search and Rescue Unit finally has a new home.

By Paul Kelly
Friday, 28th January 2022, 3:34 pm
At the site of the new Mountain Rescue station in Kelso, main contractor Matthew Lee, with team members, David Williams, architect technician; David Barnes, vehicle officer;  Carl Outhwaite;, Kevin Sterrick, treasurer; Duncan Buchanan, team leader; Bob McKead, base officer and Brian Tyson, chairman. (Photo: BILL McBURNIE)
At the site of the new Mountain Rescue station in Kelso, main contractor Matthew Lee, with team members, David Williams, architect technician; David Barnes, vehicle officer; Carl Outhwaite;, Kevin Sterrick, treasurer; Duncan Buchanan, team leader; Bob McKead, base officer and Brian Tyson, chairman. (Photo: BILL McBURNIE)

Since 1963 the lifesaving unit has been splitting its accommodation between garages at Kelso racecourse and vehicle storage at Kelso Police Station.

It is an unsatisfactory arrangement and the search for an alternative base has been ongoing for years, with sites considered only to be found wanting.

So it was a momentous day last month when work finally started on the new team base at Kelso’s Pinnacle Hill Industrial Estate.

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The facility will be home to the team’s 32 lifesaving volunteers and is to have suitable space for training and meetings, room to sort and quarantine equipment, adequate storage, changing rooms and more.

Work on the new structure is expected to be completed in August this year, with hope that the team will be largely operating from it by the end of 2022.

But there are still many challenges ahead, not least of which will be raising the estimated £50,000 needed to fit out the interior of the premises.

Unit members are taking part in ongoing funding efforts themselves but financial bids to trusts are tougher than ever as a result of the challenges of Covid.

Despite this the unit’s base officer Bob McKeand is accentuating the positives.

He said: “Just having one building that will contain everything and allow us to literally get in, open up and drive out will make a huge difference to our ability to operate.

“We will also have some heat in the building, which means it will still be able to be used for at least team training because at the moment if we are doing anything at our current garage, it’s doors open and it’s a freezing cold with a dirty concrete floor. So this, regardless of whether it is the 100 per cent finished article, will be light years away from where we at the moment. It will be a major improvement to our team training capabilities and the ability to organise and look after our equipment properly.

“At the moment we have stuff in an unheated garage which isn’t too good for certain medical gases or batteries and defibrillators. Regardless of what stage we get to this year it will a major benefit to the team and the communities we serve.”

Bob said that the contractors carrying out the work had been given specific instructions because of uncertainty around finance and delivery schedules.

He explained: “What we’ve essentially said to the contractor is ‘give us a building, put in all the necessary foundations for internal walls designed in, but don’t build them unless we can come back to you and say we have got the money to put those additional walls in and create the storage, training space etc.’

“We’re hoping that we get some additional money in that will allow us to put in those extra bits and clearly we will do things ourselves, we have team members with various skills we can utilise but ultimately we still have to pay for materials.

“One of the practical issues we have at the moment is trying to get the insulated cladding panels for the building. There is a time lag for delivery. They have been ordered but the chances are we’ll have a steel frame up with no roof or walls on it for some time, just waiting for the delivery of that material to be fitted.

“What we’re hoping is that we can get additional monies while the building is under-way and then ask the contractors to do the work.

“We will look to be switching by the end of the year, even if it’s not fully finished because it will allow us to hold all our equipment in one place which will improve our ability to respond to emergency call-outs by the police.”

Bob admits that attracting funding is tougher now because of the impact of the pandemic.

He said: “Covid has kind of got in the way because a lot of funding, trusts we may have been able to approach for funding, have very much prioritised Covid recovery-related stuff for understandable reasons.

“What we’re planning to have internally would include proper designated storage rooms, medical equipment and other emergency equipment, separate from the vehicles and in addition to that manage to get some basic facilities in there like toilets, which is something we lack, apart from the lack of space, in our current garage, in addition to a lack of heating.

“We also need a training room for incident control, like the winter weather incidents we have had, like the flooding incidents, where we may have to have people out for protracted periods. It gives us the opportunity run a centralised control operation – rather than people trying to work out of the back of a trailer.”

To find out more about the work of Border Search and Rescue Unit log on to https://business.facebook.com/BorderSAR/