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NSW firefighters export their disaster response expertise

Published: 9th November 2009

Two of Australia's top rescue experts are set to join a high-level delegation advising the United Nations on international disaster response and emergency management, Emergency Services Minister Steve Whan said today.

NSW Fire Brigades (NSWFB) specialised operations assistant director Chief Superintendent John Denny and Senior Firefighter Andy Haag will take part in the UN's annual disaster and emergency planning exercise, to be held in China on November 10 and 11.

"In recent years, firefighters have played a vital role in responding to some of the world's worst natural disasters, including tsunamis, earthquakes and wild fires," Mr Whan said.

"NSWFB Disaster Assistance Response Teams have been dispatched to Banda Aceh, The Maldives, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Taiwan, Indonesia and China.

"Its counter-terrorism response, fire investigation, communication, dispatch and logistics specialists also have responded to international calls for assistance including, most recently, the earthquakes and tsunami in Samoa.

"The Fire Brigade also exports its expertise, developing training programs which are used internationally and participating in United Nations-sponsored meetings, conferences and disaster exercises such as this event in China."

Chief Supt Denny and Firefighter Haag will attend the UN international classification exercise to assess the latest rescue techniques and equipment being used by Chinese urban search and rescue teams when responding to major disasters across Asia.

The pair is among three NSWFB international assessors recently chosen by the UN to assist in the international classification process undertaken by nations that provide assistance to affected countries during large-scale and complex emergencies. The classification process is an audit by external assessors which classifies rescue teams as light, medium or heavy so their capability can be matched to the environment where they are deployed.

All three NSWFB assessors have been chosen based on their high level expertise in disaster management.

NSWFB Commissioner Greg Mullins said the NSWFB is one of the largest rescue services in Australia, with almost 2,000 trained rescue operators.

"This UN exercise will allow us to share our expertise and learn from others. This will benefit our highly trained rescue teams as they go about their every day work of saving lives here in NSW and internationally when called upon," Commissioner Mullins said.

"We have 171 accredited rescue units, made up of skilled fire officers with the latest equipment, who respond daily to accident and rescue scenes around the State.

"These units are overseen by our specialised operations area and backed up by specialised Urban Search and Rescue teams ready to be deployed to local and international disasters and emergencies at any moment."

The NSWFB's specialist equipment for international deployment includes a ready-to-go shipping container with emergency packs of food supplies, tents, sleeping bags, cold climate clothing and rescue gear to support a team of 72 personnel for a period of 10 days.