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SARAID join the largest UK simulated exercise for trapped people.

An earthquake, refugees, terrorists and kidnappers formed the dramatic backdrop to the yearly major disaster simulation exercise this week involving students and staff from across the University of Portsmouth and Search and Rescue Teams from the UK.

The three-day SimEx2016 event saw more than 400 people from the University and 30 partner organisations responding to a realistic 'live' disaster in and around Portsmouth, this year it is set to be even bigger with more scenarios to test the skills of the partner organisations while providing the opportunity for final year students from Portsmouth University to put their learnings into practice.

SimEx2016 director Naomi Morris, a humanitarian consultant and Portsmouth graduate who has led international response teams in real-life crisis scenarios, said: "The exercise creates a platform for international, national and volunteer organisations to practise and improve vital coordination on standard operating procedures for emergency response, at the same time as giving the University an excellent opportunity to expose students from various departments to their potential future career choices."

Last year the exercise began with Serve On volunteers ferrying 'refugees' from earthquake-hit Hayling Island to the operational headquarters based at the University's Institute of Marine Sciences, where the victims were assessed by the 'United Nations' team. The operation then moved to Fort Widley, on Portsdown Hill, which Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service turned into an urban search and rescue training centre.

SARAID work with the best to test their skills and knowledge

On the 8th May SARAID will join 5 other international search and rescue organisations to be tested and share knowledge. 'ACHILLES 17' is an earthquake disaster response, Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Exercise that is taking place in the USAR Training village of Swiss Armed Forces in Geneva.

This exercise simulates an emergency situation after an earthquake and is conducted by five USAR partner organisations: Technisches Hilfswerk (THW), I.S.A.R Germany, @Fire Germany/S.A.R.A.I.D., UIISC 1 France and Swiss Rescue. During the 48-hour-simulation, the teams practice deployment, locating and rescuing as well as providing medical support to survivors trapped underneath the rubble in a race against time. The event is hosted by Switzerland, in particular Swiss Humanitarian Aid and Swiss Armed Forces.

The scenario is that a virtual earthquake measuring 7.5 on the Richter scale jolts the "Free Republic of JURENEVA". The epicentre of the quake, which kills more than 1,000 people and injures many more, is located about 20 kilometres southwest of Geneva. Approximately 24 hours after the government of JURENEVA called for international assistance, five USAR teams from Germany, Switzerland, UK and France start arriving at Payerne military airport. From there, the rescuers are taken to the simulated disaster area at the training village of the Swiss Armed Forces in Geneva (Epeisses), where the rescue activities begin.

This is not the first time SARAID and @Fire have worked together, the two teams joined resources during the deployment to Nepal in 2015, are both Non-Governmental organisations (NGO) and are both members of INSARAG, Light International USAR Team Working Group.

SARAID continue to help in Nepal

SARAID team medic Steve Watkins recently delivered a 4-day training course on light search and rescue, first aid, and community disaster risk reduction to members of Global Action Nepal (an NGO focusing on access to and quality of education in Nepal). The delivered programme trained GAN staff members in preparedness and response, and provided the necessary training and materials to cascade these lessons to the many communities in which they operate. Please see the course description below from Global Action Nepal:

“In the past four days a mixed group of GAN staff and 30 Youth Volunteers have received intense training in Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR). The training was provided by SARAID, a UK specialized group that provided Search and Rescue support in Kathmandu just after the earthquake on the 25th of April.

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The training covered a wide range of topics from how to prepare and plan for a disaster, to how to act during and immediately after one. The group learned through a mix of theory presentations, group work and simulated scenarios. On the acting side they learned and practiced techniques on sectorising a search area, searching and evaluating a semi-collapsed building, building temporary structures to stabilize a semi-collapsed building, searching through a pile of rubble, assessing a victim, transporting victims, writing a standard report etc. From a preparedness point of view they learned how to make an emergency plan, planned and practiced evacuation drills, define an emergency meeting point (ERV), define a ERV kit, making emergency stockpiles, mapping and information gathering, etc.

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In summary it was a very intense mind-expanding experience that will gear up the group to go and share the knowledge with key people in the most affected districts. Let’s wish them all the best in this new adventure!”

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