When major earth­quakes shake and devas­tate a region of this earth, every hour counts for victims, the injured and the buried. The scale of destruc­tion often exceeds the capac­ity of local relief work­ers and requires inter­na­tional assistance.

To rescue people from rubble around the world, @fire’s inter­na­tion­ally recog­nized and certi­fied Light USAR team is ready to deploy at a momen­t’s notice.

As one of only three German rescue teams and the first certi­fied Light USAR team world­wide, @fire is a member of INSARAG. The Inter­na­tional Search and Rescue Advi­sory Group (INSARAG) was estab­lished in 1991 as a subsidiary orga­ni­za­tion of the United Nations. The tasks of the orga­ni­za­tion are to develop inter­na­tional coop­er­a­tion in the field of debris rescue (USAR = Urban Search and Rescue). The main task is the coor­di­na­tion and stan­dard­iza­tion of inter­na­tional rescue teams. Clear struc­tures, defined capa­bil­i­ties and stan­dard­ized processes are intended to make inter­na­tional aid more effec­tive and targeted.

Specialty: Rescue of buried victims

The rescue team special­izes in locat­ing trapped people in the rubble of collapsed build­ings, rescu­ing them and provid­ing medical care. To this end, @fire has special­ized equip­ment on hand, rang­ing from track­ing devices to recov­ery equip­ment to medical equip­ment. This is air-portable and perma­nently avail­able for use in a ware­house. By means of elab­o­rate logis­tics, the team is completely self-suffi­cient for the entire dura­tion of the assign­ment and can be deployed worldwide.

@fire is a member of UN INSARAG

To date, the assis­tance of @fire’s Urban Search and Rescue team has been called upon around the globe for rescue after earth­quakes, seaquakes and tsunamis, typhoons, or an explo­sion as part of United Nations relief operations.

The team is supported in the rescue work by rescue dogs that are specially trained to search in rubble. They sniff out the rough loca­tion of a survivor so that an exact posi­tion can then be deter­mined by track­ing devices and a rescue can be initi­ated. Medical respon­ders then care for the rescued person until a trans­fer to another rescue unit or appro­pri­ate hospi­tal takes place.

Rescue dogs - An irre­place­able part of the team

The volun­teers of @fire have been able to rely on their own rescue dog unit (so-called “K9 Unit”) since 2014. The specially trained search dogs are able to quickly search large-scale debris struc­tures, indi­cat­ing deeply buried indi­vid­u­als. Thus, the rescue dogs at @fire form an indis­pens­able and profes­sional part in the rescue chain.

Like most of the helpers at @fire, the dog handlers and their rescue dogs perform addi­tional service search­ing for miss­ing and buried people in other relief orga­ni­za­tions all over Germany, in addi­tion to the demand­ing world­wide disas­ter relief work. In addi­tion to the national require­ments, rescue dogs must also complete addi­tional train­ing sessions and meet the inter­na­tional test­ing guide­lines of the Inter­na­tional Rescue Dog Orga­ni­za­tion (IRO ).

Only oper­a­tional rescue dog teams are used in inter­na­tional disas­ters. The @fire teams obtain this qual­i­fi­ca­tion through an inter­na­tional oper­a­tional test conducted by the IRO. This oper­a­tional test guar­an­tees the world­wide qual­ity stan­dard in a rescue team.

Back­ground: The United Nations INSARAG

Follow­ing the major earth­quakes in Mexico (1985) and Arme­nia (1988), the Inter­na­tional Search and Rescue Advi­sory Group (INSARAG) was estab­lished within the United Nations Office for the Coor­di­na­tion of Human­i­tar­ian Affairs (UN OCHA) in 1991 on the initia­tive of the inter­na­tional search and rescue teams involved in the oper­a­tion.

The organ­i­sa­tion’s tasks are to improve inter­na­tional coop­er­a­tion in the field of debris rescue (USAR = Urban Search and Rescue). The main task is the coor­di­na­tion and stan­dard­iza­tion of inter­na­tional rescue teams. Through clear struc­tures, defined capa­bil­i­ties and uniform processes, inter­na­tional aid should be more effec­tive and targeted.

For exam­ple, INSARAG’s guide­lines (INSARAG Guide­lines) define the staffing levels and compe­ten­cies of the USAR teams. Accord­ing to these guide­lines, each USAR team consists of five compo­nents: manage­ment, logis­tics, search, rescue and medical care. Further­more, three clas­si­fi­ca­tion levels (light, medium and heavy) would be created for the search and rescue teams, which differ mainly in terms of person­nel strength, mobil­ity and capa­bil­i­ties.

All rescue teams must undergo INSARAG Exter­nal Clas­si­fi­ca­tion (IEC) and regu­lar Re-Clas­si­fi­ca­tion (IER) in one of the three clas­si­fi­ca­tion levels.

Accord­ing to INSARAG guide­lines, a Light USAR team can carry out search and rescue oper­a­tions in collapsed build­ings made of wood and unre­in­forced masonry, as well as in build­ings rein­forced with steel rein­force­ment. It must also be able to lift, roll, push or hoist debris using a crane, winch or hoist. It must provide medical care for its team members and rescue dogs as well as for the victims encoun­tered, if permit­ted by the govern­ment of the coun­try concerned. Further­more, a Light USAR team must be able to work self-suffi­ciently at an oper­a­tion site for five days for 12 hours at a time and consists of at least 18 emer­gency personnel.