When mentioning the achievements of the Emergency Services, commonly known as Rescue 1122, it is important to note that it is the first United Nations INSARAG certified Pakistan Rescue Team (PRT) in South Asia. Pakistan Rescue Team of Emergency Services Academy (Rescue 1122) Lahore received the great honour of this United Nations certification after completing an extensive evaluation process of several years under the supervision of United Nations-INSARAG mentors.
The 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 a great honour for Pakistan; it is the professional capacity of the country for training of others inside Pakistan and South Asian region, and international disaster response. Today on October 30, the PRT has completed two years of its UN certification and is celebrating its second anniversary.
The final evolution of the PRT was carried out by a team of United Nations International Classifiers from Austria, England, Germany, Switzerland, Morocco, Jordan, and UN INSARAG Secretariat in Geneva. The team included Peter Goxharaj, Christian Resch, Thomas Nesensohn, Amjad Al-Huniti, Soufian Samghouli, Winston Chang Wei Shen, Robert John Norman, and Sean Moore. They were in Lahore on October 28-31, 2019, and evaluated different phases, from documentations review to the end of the exercise, during a 36-hour simulation exercise.
This evaluation was like a world cup final for the disaster response players as a single safety breach could cause disqualification of the team. It was a great moment when Winston Chang from the UN INSARAG secretariat made the official announcement at the Governor House when he said that he would like to start with the famous quote of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, also a world-renowned cricketer, ‘never give up, no matter how hard, keep going and don’t give up’. “Pakistan Rescue Team stands tall amongst the world elite as officially United Nations Classified Urban Search & Rescue Teams,” he stated.
Becoming part of the global network in the field of disaster response is a milestone achievement for Pakistan. Having received this classification, the PRT is certified by UN-INSARAG to conduct search and rescue operations anywhere in the world. Congratulations, Prime Minister, and the whole nation for this international achievement.
The specialized search and 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 a disaster. The academy has a purpose-built rubble field for urban search and rescue training facility, with trained staff and specialized equipment, as per INSARAG guidelines essential for international deployment in case of a disaster. Although the academy is situated in Punjab, it is playing the role of a national organization, as over 20,000 emergency professionals across Pakistan have been trained here.
The academy has organized the SAARC Rescue Challenge in 2018 for capacity building of emergency services of SAARC countries, ten National Rescue Challenges to improve coordination and uniform standard of emergency services Pakistan, 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 the final 36-hour 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 – disaster alert; team activation; pre-deployment process, including team registration, medical screening, logistic issuance, and team briefing; mobilization, and custom and immigration check of the team to reach the affected country; coordination meetings with local authorities; setting up of reception/departure centre to facilitate all teams coming to help the affected country; establishment of a base of operation to start the operation; wide area assessment, search and start 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 the international guidelines.
A member of the team performed the role of the Urban Search and Rescue Coordination Cell for the United Nations members to centrally deploy different teams coming for assistance. During all these functions, different injects were given by the exercise control unit to check team’s professionalism and understanding of the assignments as per INSARAG guidelines. All members were under observation.
The collective and tireless efforts of Team Commander Dr Rizwan Naseer, Team Leader Dr Farhan Khalid, exercise controllers, squad leaders, and team members have raised the flag of Pakistan globally after bagging the international certification of PRT. The organization acknowledges and appreciates the selfless services of Edward G Pearn, the first team mentor from England, and the efforts of the experts from different countries for capacity building of PRT.
The support of Government of Pakistan, Government of Punjab, NDMA Pakistan, UN-OCHA PAKISTAN, UN-OCHA INSARAG Secretariat, UNDSS, SDC, and all concerned organizations is also highly acknowledged.
The team is celebrating its second anniversary with another initiative of the National Accreditation Program to train the Light Search and Rescue Team as per UN INSARAG standards.
Happy second anniversary to the Pakistan Rescue Team, and best wishes for the mission to save more lives with professional excellence.