Next week is a big week for our Urban Search and Rescue team as they are tested for their reclassification as an international deployable team.

Our USAR team has ‘heavy’ team status which it achieved in 2015 from the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG) through INSARAG’s external classification system. 

INSARAG is a global network of more than 90 countries, committed to developing minimum international standards for USAR teams to ensure effective and coordinated USAR response. INSARAG is a branch of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA). 

To achieve an INSARAG heavy team USAR classification, a full capability audit is undertaken by a group of international experts where many capabilities must be demonstrated, for example: 

  • Full movement of personnel, including search dogs, equipment and habitat, under deployment conditions
  • Reception Departure Centre at the airport, and USAR Coordination Centre in the field
  • Rapid Damage Assessments (RDAs)
  • Stabilisation of structures
  • Technical rescues, including high angle and enclosed space.
  • Logistical support

Our National and International Response Manager, Ian Duncan, who is also National USAR Manager, said the team will undergo a 36-hour exercise at the New Zealand Defence Force’s Ardmore military training area in Auckland.

‘The team will be put through its paces under the eyes of INSARAG classifiers who have come from Australia, China, France, Japan, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Singapore, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States.

‘The team is made up of 71 personnel, mainly from Fire and Emergency, but includes other agencies for our search dogs, engineers, paramedics, and doctors. We will also have a significant number of personnel supporting the EXCON (exercise control) function. This is a critical test for our USAR team, and we wish them the very best.

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