@Fire USAR Simulation – German – October 2014

December 31, 2014 in U.S.A.R.

On the 10th of October 2014, a keen trio of members stepped outside their normal work routine and joined a group of @FIRE international civil protection volunteers in a hectic three day Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) training camp.

Utilising the THW (Bundesanstalt Technisches Hilfswerk) station in Lohne (Oldenburg), Germany, the @FIRE volunteers (from all @FIRE hubs across Germany and Switzerland) and the EFRU Maltese team simulated a large-scale destruction of a tsunami on the South American continent.

Addressing the aftermath, a quick deployment was emulated forming an On Site Operations Coordination Centre (OSOCC) tasking the USAR team with the setting up of the Base of Operations (BoO) a few kilometers away from the devastating earthquake invoked tsunami’s hot zone. The BoO included a headquarters, communications hub, separate sleeping, eating and decontamination areas and equipment stock setup.A plan of action was immediately implemented and shared with all rescuers including a preliminary site assessment provided by the Local Emergency Management Authority (LEMA) and resources split and assigned to the different task forces.

Once all preparations were in order, the EFRU and @FIRE volunteers forming part of the technical search specialist team departed to the disaster site where they started assessing a number of impacted buildings inside the high priority zones, classifying them in accordance of the probability of occurrence of trapped victims, while completing a risk assessment and listing any special equipment which may be required by the USAR team. Any potential need for the deployment of the K9 team were also analysed, and each work site was assigned a triage category between A and H depending on the probability of live victims, void size, and stability levels.

Upon reporting all categories to OSOCC, K9 and medium USAR teams made up from members from both organisations were deployed. Equipped with search cameras, metal cutting and concrete breaking equipment, and vertical shoring systems, team quickly set working to rescue casualties trapped deep underneath the debris. Despite the harsh cold and wet conditions, USAR team worked in unity throughout the night to save the tsunami victims.

These three days of training were very fruitful and remarkable during which EFRU volunteers had a first encounter with @FIRE volunteers from multiple countries, and engaged in the simulation of an international operational deployment. When considering the short time frame and the exercise dimensions and attention to detail, results achieved were very positive.

“This was a pristine opportunity for both EFRU and @FIRE to gain a vivid insight on the modes of operation of each entity.It was very remarkable for EFRU volunteers to observe the interactions among @FIRE volunteers from different hubs who rarely meet at such a scale.” Maria Micallef

Whilst this exercise proved to be a very good occasion for EFRU to further broadened its international network, it was also an excellent opportunity for EFRU to,on-behalf of EVOLSAR, expose the feelers of other European volunteer organisations for civil protection voluntary teams. The EFRU, currently leading EVOLSAR’s Presidency during the association’s first year of operation, is currently seeking to widen EVOLSAR’s horizons by reaching out to organisations which can mutually benefit from as simulations during international training and live deployments.

The EFRU is very grateful for the hospitality and cordiality shown by all of @FIRE’s volunteers and THW’s Lohne volunteers, and for sharing and explaining information and work practices during such a strategically crucial time in the history of @FIRE in its endeavor to achieve the United Nations’ INSARAG certification in 2016.

Following this productive visit, EFRU and @FIRE are actively working together to consolidate a networking agreement for the common interest of both organisations and their respective volunteers.

David Cristina and Maria Micallef