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Handbags, rings, keys and other items fallen into the sea are routinely recovered by the Sharjah Police Rescue Unit Image Credit: Supplied

Sharjah: In a bid to better handle emergency situations, first responders in Sharjah have acquired several new tools to assist them.

Two rapid response vehicles - one to rescue people trapped in cars during accidents and another for marine rescue missions - have joined the fleet of emergency vehicles in Sharjah.

Lieutenant Colonel Faisal Al Dokhi, director of Sharjah Police’s Rescue Department, told Gulf News in an exclusive interview that they are fitted with hydraulic equipment with cutters and can spray foam to deal with fires.

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The Sharjah Police Rescue Unit is trained to handle emergencies in any kind of terrain Image Credit: Supplied

A quick response police unit will be based at Sahara Centre to respond to accidents in the area. Manned by two personnel, the unit is operating 24/7 in shifts.

Robots will also enter service soon while drones have been used by the unit since 2019 to improve safety.

Al Dokhi said the department is also using a special drone to locate and rescue people in Sharjah waters, which can locate people faster than human rescuers. It will be run from a special operations room. The drone is fitted with cameras that can enlarge images by 38 times. It’s also equipped with a thermal sensor to survey beaches and features safety tubes to rescue drowning people. The tubes can be deployed remotely.

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Leading the way: Lieutenant Colonel Faisal Al Dokhi Image Credit: Supplied

The department has also acquired a device to map out a topographical profile of the seabed so as to reduce human resources such as divers during search operations to save time.

166 rescue missions

Sharjah Police’s land and maritime rescue teams carried out 166 rescue missions — 151 on land and 15 at sea — since the beginning of the year till May 31. Last year, 550 rescue missions were carried out - 540 on land and 10 at sea.

These missions included rescuing people trapped in cars after traffic accidents, towing vehicles which had broken down, rescuing people from drowning, finding people lost in the desert, and even opening stuck elevator doors.

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The cases that the rescue unit handle are varied Image Credit: Supplied

Marine patrols on Al Khan and Al Hamriya beaches responded to 15 incidents since the beginning of this year until May 31, including drowning incidents, lifting of objects from the seabed and Jet Ski accidents.

Al Dokhi said the rescue team is undergoing training in dealing with major accidents and attending to every type of incident, “We are even called out when somebody locks their keys inside the car or cars get stuck in the desert. Sharjah Police Rescue is a free service and we are here to help”.

He added, “I am very proud of them. They work hard and train just as rigorously. It is a tough job and I like to think of them as the best.”

Sharjah Police Rescue works with all departments in the Government, including Sharjah Civil Defence to help save lives.

“We worked with teams from all over the world, sharing our experience and skills,” Al Dokhi continued.

“They are trained in everything and can do the same job as the other sections. They are probably the best trained and can deal with everything including chemical spills and water-based operations. We have a full scuba-diving team too.”

At their own risk

Al Dokhi said those who violate police guidelines do so at their own risk.

He recalled the Wadi Al Helo incident where four people died after they ignored police instructions and entered a valley and were swept away by flash floods.

Lack of awareness is the main reason which leads to such tragic accidents, he said.

Community police in cooperation with charity associations and Red Crescent authorities are dealing with families who have been displaced and need help by providing them with temporary accommodation and essential items until they are able to return to their homes.

Hikers and mountain climbers who have lost their way or have put their lives in danger can be found using the air wing.

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An underwater rescue mission Image Credit: Supplied

“If we ask the air wing to attend the scene we find them even before the arrival of land rescue unit unless if there is a technical problem which might delay their arrival. It costs [the] authority a lot but saving lives of people is more precious than anything else,” he said.

Modern ambulances

Al Dokhi said the ambulances at the unit are modern and feature four seats and are equipped with a hydraulic machine to lift wheelchairs.

The department will launch and activate e-services to transport the elderly (via the police website) and for enquiries people can call the department.

Since the beginning of this year until May 31, the department transported 1,687 elderly patients and 522 bodies following natural or criminal death while in 2019, 5,451 elderly patients and 1,148 bodies were carried.

The number has dropped due to the coronavirus pandemic and only serious cases have been transported to hospital.

Recovered from the sea

Al Dokhi cited several interesting incidents that were handled by the response teams.

The control room received a call about a handbag of an Arab woman which contained gold jewellery and cash in addition to other valuables had fallen in the sea. When the rescue team reached the scene they managed to find the handbag in six minutes from a depth of five metres. The husband of the woman threw the handbag in the sea following a family dispute.

Another case involved a man who called the control room at night saying that his car keys fell into the sea at Al Mamzar. Divers were able to retrieve the keys from a depth of five metres.

The department also responded to several calls from members of the community who lost their belongings including branded watches, sunglasses and gold rings in the sea and all of the items were recovered by divers and handed over to their owners.

And it isn’t just people who the rescue team help - in an incident in Al Buhairah, they rescued a cat from drowning too.