Wednesday August 10, 2022

Anniversary of first UN-INSARAG certified rescue team in South Asia

October 31, 2021

Whenever anybody would like to write the achievements of emergency services commonly known as Rescue 1122, one would feel the pride to mention the first United Nations INSARAG certified Pakistan Rescue Team (PRT) in South Asia.

Pakistan Rescue Team of Emergency Services Academy (Rescue 1122), Lahore received this great honour of United Nations certification after completing an extensive evaluation process of several years under the supervision of UN-INSARAG mentors. International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG) is the official certifying body of the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA) for International Search & Rescue Teams. PRT has become an honour for Pakistan, the professional capacity of the country for training of other countries in the country and South Asia and international disaster response. Today on 30th October Pakistan Rescue Team has completed two years of its UN certification and celebrating its second anniversary.

Final evolution of the Rescue Team was carried out by a team of United Nations International Classifiers from Austria, England, Germany, Switzerland, Morocco, Jordan, and United Nations - INSARAG Secretariat in Geneva. The team of classifiers included Peter Goxharaj, Christian Resch, Thomas Nesensohn, Amjad Al-Huniti, Soufian Samghouli, Winston Chang Wei Shen, Robert John Norman, and Sean Moore came to Lahore from 28 to 31 October 2019, evaluated different phases from documentations review to the end of the exercise during a 36 hours simulation exercise. This evaluation was like a final world cup for the disaster response players as a single safety breach can cause disqualification of the team. It was certainly a great moment when Winston Chang from United Nations INSARAG Secretariat made the official announcement at Governor House and said that I like to start with the famous quote from the Prime Minister Imran Khan, World Champion Cricketer he said and I quote “Never Give up, no matter how hard, keep going and don’t give up”. Today “Pakistan Rescue Team stands tall amongst the world elite as officially United Nations Classified Urban Search & Rescue Teams”. Becoming part of the Global Network in the field of disaster response is a milestone achievement for the country and after this classification, Pakistan Rescue Team is certified by UN-INSARAG to conduct search and rescue operations anywhere in the world. Congratulations Prime Minister and the whole Nation for International achievement.

This specialised Search & Rescue Team is stationed at the Emergency Services Academy Lahore Pakistan strategically located almost in the Centre of the country and can be deployed within the country or internationally in case of any disaster. This Academy has a purpose-built rubble field for urban search & rescue training facility with trained staff and specialized equipment as per INSARAG guidelines essential for international deployment in case of a disaster. Although, this Academy is situated in Punjab but playing the role of a national organization as over 20,000 emergency professionals across Pakistan have been trained in this Academy. Besides that, the Academy has already organised SAARC Rescue Challenge in 2018 for capacity building of Emergency Services of SAARC countries and ten National Rescue Challenge in order to improve coordination and uniform standard of Emergency Services in the country and five National Community Emergency Response Team Challenges to provide a platform to volunteer teams to exhibit their professional skills and promote volunteerism.

The process of final 36 hours evaluation for INSARAG External Classification (IEC) was a complete simulation exercise about the procedure from Team preparation to travel and deployment in another country and conduct of search and rescue operation in the affected country. All steps from disaster alert, team activation, pre-deployment process including team registration, medical screening, logistic issuance, and team briefing, mobilisation, and custom and immigration check of the team to reach the affected country, coordination meetings with local authorities, set up of Reception/ Departure Centre to facilitate all teams coming for help the affected country, Establishment of Base of Operation (BoO) to start the operation, wide area assessment/ search and started rescue operation including concrete cutting, breaching, horizontal approach rescue, crane operation, field amputation, rope rescue extrication from confined space, vertical shoring, Debriefing and Demobilization of the Team were performed as per international guidelines.

The selected member of the team also performed the role of Urban Search and Rescue Coordination Cell (UCC) as United Nations members to centrally deploy the different teams coming for assistance. During all these functions different injects were given by Exercise Control to check the team professionalism and understanding of the assignments as per INSARAG guidelines. All members were under observation.

The collective and tireless efforts of the team commander Dr. Rizwan Naseer, Team Leader Dr. Farhan Khalid, exercise controllers, all squad leaders, and team members globally raised the flag of Pakistan after international achievement Pakistan Rescue Team highly acknowledges and appreciates the selfless services of Edward G Pearn first team mentor from England and the efforts of all international experts from different countries for capacity building of Team. The support of Government of the Pakistan, Punjab, NDMA Pakistan, UN-OCHA PAKISTAN, UN- OCHA INSARAG Secretariat, UNDSS, SDC, and all concerned organisations is also highly acknowledged. The team is celebrating the second anniversary with another initiative of the National Accreditation Programme to train the Light Search and Rescue Team as per UN INSARAG standards.

— Deeba Shahnaz Akhter

Member UN Certified Pakistan

Rescue Team