by LAUREN CODLING
A GROUP of trained experts from Pakistan have been commended for their “willingness to learn” and “professionalism” by a senior UK Aid advisor, as the Pakistan Rescue Team (PRT) successfully received its UN accreditation last month.
It means that the PRT has been recognised for the quality of its skills and readiness to search for the injured following large-scale disasters, such as earthquakes and floods – without having to rely on foreign assistance.
The Pakistani team successfully completed a series of strenuous assessments including a 36-hour exercise displaying the ability to safely conduct drills, detect casualties using cameras
and listening devices as well as rescue victims from collapsed buildings. The group’s members were also tested on their competence to administer medical care, including performing field amputations, and successfully clearing heavy rubble to help people trapped under collapsed structures.
The PRT team was supported in its assessment challenge by the UK Aid-funded organisation UK International Search and Rescue team (UK ISAR).
Known as one of most-respected UN classified search and rescue teams in the world, UK ISAR has been deployed to disaster sites in countries such as Nepal, Turkey, Japan, Haiti, Bosnia, New Zealand, and Indonesia.
Sean Moore, the former head of UK ISAR, mentored the team and shared British expertise on the skills needed to pass the UN assessment. Following the news of PRT receiving UN accreditation, Moore praised team members for their “willingness to learn”.
“They were very receptive to learning new techniques and making themselves better,” Moore, who travelled to Lahore for intensive sessions with the team over six months, told Eastern Eye. “They were very professional.”
The PRT initially started to work towards UN classification following the 2005 Kashmir earthquake, where more than 85,000 people lost their lives. It was considered to be the deadliest earthquake in south Asia since 1935.
At the time, Moore explained, Pakistan did not have the capability to respond to the disaster. They requested international assistance and the UK was one of the countries that stepped in to support them. As most lives are saved within 24 hours of an earthquake, it was essential that a country could respond themselves instead of waiting for international support.
Emphasising the “close relationship” between Pakistan and the UK, Moore said sharing expertise was the “right thing to do”. As the UK ISAR has been in operation for more than 25 years, it has a wealth of knowledge related to humanitarian response.
“We are willing to share this with teams around the world, such as those in disaster prone areas such as Pakistan,” Moore, who was a firefighter in the West Midlands Fire Service for more than 27 years, said. “It is the right thing to do from a UK perspective and will ultimately save lives.”
Describing his delight in seeing the PRT team receive UN accreditation, Moore said he was pleased to see the team do so successfully.
“Having been their mentor for six months, I was absolutely overjoyed to see them pass,” Moore admitted. “They did extremely well, and it was so rewarding after all the hard work they had put in.”
International development secretary Alok Sharma also expressed his pride at the support given to the Pakistanis by the UK ISAR team.
“I’m proud that an expert from the UK Aidfunded UK International Search and Rescue team has mentored Pakistani colleagues to develop their skills to achieve this accolade,” Sharma said. “Sharing British expertise means Pakistan is now better equipped to respond when disaster strikes, increasing the chance of saving lives.”