【A-PAD Sri Lanka】First Civil &Military Cooperative SAR Training
A-PAD and A-PAD Sri Lanka, in cooperation with the Sri Lankan Air Force (SRAF) and the locally based Disaster Management Center (DMC) organized and conducted a three-day search and rescue (SAR) training exercise at the SRAF base in Koggala, 139 kilometers south of Colombo. Twenty military and several medical personnel from all three branches of the Sri Lankan military as well as 25 volunteers from local civil society organizations took part in the drills between November 19 and 21. The volunteers came from organizations including Sri Lanka Life Saving, Ironman 4×4 Community Emergency Response Team and SEALs Volunteer Emergency Response Team Initiative. Nine staff from the six A-PAD member countries also took part in the three-day training program conducted by Mr. Chunyuan Huang A-PAD’s search and rescue team leader with the assistance of three instructors from Taiwan-based volunteer rescue team. The exercises, part of an A-PAD program in disaster management, were implemented with support from the Sasakawa Peace Foundation.
The training session was held in response to an urgent need for search and rescue staff capable of responding to water-related disasters such as floods and landslides which have cost hundreds of lives and caused severe economic damage in Sri Lanka in recent years. In May 2017, torrential rain triggered floods that effected more than twenty districts causing forty landslides resulting in over 500 deaths. Eight rescuers were among those killed.
Addressing participants, Mr. Chathura Liyanaarachchi, Assistant Director, Preparedness Planning Division at Disaster Management Centre (DMC) stated, “This is a crucial first step in which civil volunteers and military men are collaborating in professional rescue training to meet the standards set by International Search and Rescue Advisory Group Guidelines.” Mr. Liyanaarachchi added that he hoped participants could “develop their skills and knowledge in order to save more lives in next disaster.”
The training began with a lecture by Mr. Huang on basic urban search and rescue knowledge and concepts that covered both emergency disaster and medical response. During his talk, Mr. Huang stressed the importance of each rescue team member’ safety by saying that without regard for his or her own safety, no rescuer can save those affected by disaster. He said, “Only through rigorous and continuous professional training rescuers know how to keep themselves safe in emergency situations.” Mr. Huang’s talk was followed by practical training such as drills in rope rescue, inflatable boat rescue and flood simulation exercises, in which trainees divided into four groups conducted a real time emergency response situation using helicopters and inflatable boats provided by SL Life Saving and the Sri Lankan Air force.
At the end of the three-day session, Mr. Sam Chandrasoma, volunteer from Ironman 4×4 said, “This has been a great opportunity to learn how to be safe while saving others’ lives. Our volunteer team will need to reorganize our emergency response unit and rescue equipment. We also learned a lot from the military men who have been trained to always be in front line when disasters strike Sri Lanka. Through the search and rescue training, civilians will be able to fill the grey area where the military force cannot respond.”