New Home for Border Search and Rescue Unit

At the site of the new Mountain Rescue station in Kelso, main contractor Matthew Lee, with team members, David Williams, architectural technician; David Barnes, vehicle officer; Carl Outhwaite;, Kevin Sterrick, Treasurer; Duncan Buchanan, team leader; Bob McKead, Base Officer and Brian Tyson, President. (Photo: BILL McBURNIE)

Since 1963, the Rescue Unit has shared accommodation between garages at Kelso Racecourse and vehicle storage at Kelso Police Station.

It’s an unsatisfactory arrangement and the search for an alternative base has been ongoing for years, with the sites seen as lacking.

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

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The facility will house the 32 team volunteers and must have appropriate space for training and meetings, a room to sort and quarantine equipment, adequate storage, changing rooms and more .

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

But there are still many challenges ahead, including raising the estimated £50,000 needed to fit out the interior of the premises.

Unit members are themselves involved in ongoing fundraising efforts, but financial offers to trusts are more difficult than ever due to Covid challenges.

Despite this, the unit’s base officer, Bob McKeand, emphasizes the positives.

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

“We will also have some heat in the building which means it can still be used for at least team training because at the moment if we do anything in our current garage it is doors open and it’s freezing cold with a dirty concrete floor so whether or not this is a 100% finished item it will be light years away from where we are right now This will be a major improvement to our team’s training capabilities and our ability to properly organize and maintain our equipment.

“At the moment we have things in an unheated garage that are not too good for certain medical gases or batteries and defibrillators. Whatever stage we get to this year will be a major benefit for the team and the communities we serve.

Bob said the contractors carrying out the work had been given specific instructions due to uncertainty surrounding funding and delivery schedules.

He explained: “What we basically said to the contractor was, ‘Give us a building, place all the foundations needed for the designed interior walls, but don’t build them unless we can get back to them. you and tell you that we have the money to put in those extra walls and create the storage, training space, etc.

“We are hoping to get some extra money that will allow us to invest those extra items and clearly we will do things ourselves, we have team members with various skills that we can use but in the end account, we still have to pay for the materials.

“One of the practical issues we are having right now is trying to get the insulated cladding panels for the building. we have a steel frame without a roof or walls for a while, just waiting for delivery of this material to be installed.

“What we’re hoping for is that we can get some extra funding while construction is going on and then get the contractors to do the work.

“We will be looking to change by the end of the year, even if it is not completely finished, as it will allow us to keep all our equipment in one place, which will improve our ability to respond to emergency calls. of the police.”

Bob admits it’s harder to attract funding due to the impact of the pandemic.

He said: “Covid kind of got in the way because a lot of the funding, trusts that we may have been able to approach for funding, prioritized things related to Covid recovery for understandable reasons.

“What we plan to have in-house would include appropriate designated storage rooms, medical equipment and other emergency equipment, separate from the vehicles and on top of that we will manage to install some basic facilities there like toilets, which we miss, 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 winter weather incidents we’ve had, like flooding incidents, where we may have to get people out for long periods of time. This gives us the ability to run a centralized control operation – rather than people trying to work from the back of a trailer.

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