USAR Training in Portugal

September 27, 2016 in U.S.A.R.

Two volunteers from the Emergency Fire and Rescue Unit (EFRU) recently joined a group of Portuguese professional and volunteer rescuers in an intensive Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) course held at the Bombeiros Voluntários De Peniche headquarters in Peniche; a picturesque coastal town situated in Western Portugal and best known for its rich marine resources. This seven day course was delivered by the skillful and licensed instructor Francisco Rocha, on behalf of the Escola Portuguesa de Salvamento (EPS).

The course was kicked off with an overview of the INSARAG guide lines for international deployments, followed by a lecture on the organisation of Search and Rescue (SAR) operations, including elementary logistics, important safety measures and the types of collapsed structures. The course then progressed to hands-on exercises to practice different USAR skills, which included cribbing techniques to safeguard the rescuers’ safety,approaches to casualty extractions in confined spaces, use of cutting tools and inspection cameras, indispensable for wall and roof penetrations, load shifting techniques in multiple scenarios and also shoring systems that support collapsed structures to create a secure area for the rescuers to reach the casualties.

A final 24-hour exercise in a simulated earthquake-stricken scenario served to put all these skills and techniques into consolidation. The trainee rescuers were split in two teams to work in rotating shifts; one team manned the camp base and took charge of the communications post while the other was deployed at the disaster area to perform the actual search and rescue. Despite the challenging obstacles and difficulties the teams had to face, they managed to successfully extract the casualty in a safe and timely manner.

The EFRU volunteer participants described the course as one amazing and unforgettable learning experience, where they have achieved a significant level of preparedness in the USAR discipline to enable them to work effectively when dealing with real life rescue situations. Participation in this course was only made possible thanks to the networking connections effected by the EFRU through the European Association of Civil Protection Volunteer Teams (EVOLSAR), in which both the EFRU and the EPS are among its founder team members.

Miriam Cristina & Matthew Fenech
EFRU Rescuers