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Tsunami update

Tsunami update

We get many queries about what the team is doing immediately following an event like the tsunami in Japan: are we busy, are we planning to deploy, what can you do to help?   The best way to answer these questions is probably to talk through the events of today from the teams perspective which will hopefully give you a good sense of where we are right now as a team.   Events for us started immediately following the tsunami. News reports, and information through system like Facebook and Twitter meant that a number of team members knew about the event within about an hour of it happening. As soon as one team member finds out we notify the rest of the operational team through our notification system D4H no matter what the time of day, and this morning was no exception.   Once the team has been informally notified it is normally the Operations Directors decision about how to deal with the event. We can not mobilise the team for every disaster we hear about because many times the event is too small for the team to meaningfully deploy. This morning this definitely was not the case and within a couple of hours of the event the Operations Director had checked availability of the team, put in an offer of assistance to the Japanese embassy in London and had notified the rest of the search and rescue world of our availability through a system known as Virtual OSOCC. These are the three key tasks we have to undertake for any mission to take place and the faster rescue teams move, the more people will be saved.   Having done these key tasks the team is largely now waiting to find out what will happen. Each team member will often do one last check of their bags, although they are usually already packed and ready to go. It is vital that team members can take some time to relax in this period, arriving at an incident tense and tired before work even begins can cause a number of problems. Having said that, it is certainly not all rest for all the team members. In addition to embassies, we get in touch with a number of our contacts to identify if there is a more effective channel for our resources and skills, we gather information on disaster affected countries, and we have to field a number of queries from the press. Today has been no different with many team members spending time monitoring the situation and talking to colleagues.   The two things that the team is waiting for is either a request for the teams assistance from the Japanese authorities or a more general request for international assistance. Although this would normally be a request for search and rescue assistance this can be other forms of assistance because of the diverse skill set within teams like SARAID.   So far the Japanese have formally requested assistance from a number of countries in their region. This approach of taking assistance from local countries ahead of teams from further afield is critical to the international search and rescue communities way of working. Any host country only requires a certain amount of assistance and if every team deployed the host country, already impacted by the disaster, the host country would struggle to support the all of the teams flying into country. To deal with this a limited number of teams may be asked to deploy and it is always better to get teams that will arrive quickly because time really is important. For this reason local teams or normally best placed to provide assistance because they have less distance to travel.   With the Japanese government so far only requesting search and rescue assistance from USA, Australia, New Zealand and Republic of Korea the SARAID team members will remain on standby to assist either in Japan or in any other country affected by the earthquake where our assistance is needed.

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