Emergency services build disaster response skills

Published: 12th April 2011

NSW's urban search and rescue task force is bolstering its capability to respond to major disasters such as the Christchurch earthquake and Japan tsunami with more than 20 fire and rescue officers and paramedics completing training this week.

Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) Commissioner Greg Mullins said 20 fire and rescue officers and four Ambulance Service of NSW paramedics were currently undertaking the intensive four-week urban search and rescue course.

"NSW's search and rescue personnel have been busy in recent months, providing vital assistance in the aftermath of the Queensland floods, the Christchurch earthquake and Japan tsunami," Commissioner Mullins said.

"This is the first FRNSW Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) course to be held since those disasters. Course participants will put their new skills to the test during a 48-hour simulated disaster response exercise which starts today at the Milperra Waste Recycling Facility.

"The exercise will feature some of the scenarios our rescuers experienced during their deployments to those devastated regions, particularly the type of structural collapse and rescue work encountered in Christchurch."

The trainees will have to simulate locating, rescuing and treating a number of casualties, set up a base of operations and eat field rations.

Commissioner Mullins said four FRNSW urban search and rescue courses would be held this year to further build the capability of the internationally-regarded NSW taskforce.

"The multi-agency NSW search and rescue task force, led by FRNSW, includes fire and rescue officers and specialists in trauma medicine, building engineering and hazardous materials," he said.

"These crucial training courses ensure agencies are prepared for a range of potential emergencies and give staff vital knowledge and practical experience of challenging operating environments and multi-agency protocols."

Ambulance Service of NSW Acting Chief Executive Officer Mick Willis said the joint agency training program demonstrated the teamwork involved in complex rescue situations.

"This approach to joint training is reflective of the way our SCAT paramedics and fire officers work together in the community at complex rescue situations on a daily basis."