LAHORE: The Punjab Emergency Service (Rescue 1122) is all set to clear the final international test in the last week of this month to get the United Nations International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (UN INSARAG) Classification that will authorise it to conduct search and rescue operations on behalf of Pakistan in disasters anywhere in the world.

“We are ready for the final tests by at least 10 international experts, and are hopeful of clearing all of them,” said Rescue1122 Director General Dr Rizwan Naseer on Saturday.

According to him, he had initiated the process of UN certification after looking at the dismal state of rescue services during the October 2005 earthquake in Pakistan. The country did not have any specialised urban search and rescue team back then.

The Punjab Emergency Service (Rescue 1122) established the first Disaster Emergency Response Team in October 2006 and subsequently has been involved in the capacity building of its rescue team as per international standards. In February 2015, it became the first team from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation countries to be registered with the UN’s INSARAG.

Accordingly, the Punjab Emergency Service started the two-year certification process, which essentially requires supervision of a UN INSARAG certified mentor, who helps in the capacity building process and periodically evaluates the preparation and progress of the team to finally reach the stage of the UN international classification/certification.

The UN INSARAG Secretariat also recommended conducting monthly exercises under the supervision of at least two certified experts before the final certification exercise. In this regard, the UNOCHA and INSARAG experts Sean Moore and Rob John Norman had visited the Emergency Services Academy to evaluate the preparedness of Pakistan’s first rescue team for international disaster response.

After observing a 36-hour-long preparatory exercise, Mr Moore gave the go-ahead to the team for the international classification.

“In 2005, we had sought help of international teams to conduct search and rescue operations after the horrible earthquake. After this certification, we will be able to do the same in any foreign country on our own or on the asking of the UN as this will declare that we have the requisite expertise and equipment,” explained Dr Naseer.

Published in Dawn, October 7th, 2019