Rescuers converge on Timaru in New Zealand for simulated emergency scenarios
Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team members in New Zealand recently took part in simulated emergency scenarios in Timaru, on the South Island. It's a dirty job, the hours are long, and the conditions can be extremely challenging. But it's all in a day's work for USAR, with 28 members put through the paces at the annual training workshop on Monday, 17 June 2019. Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) USAR southern team leader Dave Berry was on site at the Timaru Fire Station to oversee the exercise.
He said the southern USAR team, made up of 67 members based between Timaru and Christchurch had access to 14 tons of equipment and was ready to respond to domestic and international disasters at short notice. A mix of technicians, paramedics, engineers, logistics staff, dog handlers and managers took part in subsurface, drilling, lines, shoring (stabilising buildings) and rescue simulations.
Berry was assisted by Washdyke FENZ officer and USAR technician, Rob Schiphorst, who said the exercise focussed on tool handling in a series of three exercises - shoring; breaching, breaking, burning and cutting and lines - each one with a 60 to 90 minute duration.
In one exercise, team members were tasked to cut and drill through a 1,4 metre pit using different techniques on various materials.
Berry, who was involved in rescue missions during the Christchurch and Kaikoura earthquakes, described it as "like a pancake". "You can encounter all sort of materials," he said.
All members were assessed during the day-long exercise and were required to meet a standard, he said. "We will tick all boxes based on their performance."
Schiphorst and Berry agreed the work could be dirty and hard, and the hours long. "I want to be in the best position to contribute," Berry said. "I love the teamwork, it's paramount that everyone gets along."
USAR national trainer for dogs Brenda Woolley was also on site with her border collie Skye. Woolley said dogs were capable of quickly clearing areas to make way for rescuers. "They can get in really quick to places that it are unsafe for humans to go."