How are search and rescue operations carried out during an earthquake? News. Last Minute WORLD headlines and events
After the strong earthquakes in Kahramanmaras that hit Turkey, search and rescue teams arrived from many countries. However, in 11 quake-hit cities, many quake victims complained about search and rescue teams being late to cities, lack of support with appropriate equipment, and lack of coordination.
So, how to properly conduct search and rescue operations in the event of a natural disaster? How is coordination achieved? When will the search for earthquake survivors end?
Search and rescue in urban disaster areas is a methodical process, often carried out jointly by local emergency authorities and international groups.
Speed is of the essence as people caught in the wreckage often struggle to survive for more than a few days.
The International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG), a UN-sponsored network of countries and organizations, helps facilitate coordination among international search and rescue teams involved in such disasters.
Wide area assessment
A preliminary inspection of the affected area is usually carried out by local emergency teams until further assistance arrives.
The destruction may be limited to one city or, as in the case of recent earthquakes, it may spread over a large area, including several cities in more than one country.
Initial visual assessment teams remain mobile and move quickly by air or ground if infrastructure permits, without participating in rescue operations.
Research helps identify potential sources and hazards, as well as key priorities for search and rescue teams. The disaster area is then often sub-divided into sections for distribution of command and deployment of search parties.
This score determines the viable survival sites in the designated area. The Command Center uses this information to prioritize recovery areas and decide which teams to deploy where.
Rescuers attempt to collect basic information in each area, such as the size of the building, the type of building materials, and the “building collapse category”, which aims to classify different types of damage and hazards.
Rescuers are also looking for places to survive, such as stairwells or areas under beams. In some cases, people can survive for days in such gaps, also called the triangle of life.
If the gap is large enough for a person to crawl through, the chances of survival are higher. Smaller gaps are more dangerous because people inside have less room to prevent further movement of debris or collapse of structural members.
Similarly, rescuers must be prepared for upturned power lines, gas leaks, floods and other hazards. Rescuers should use protective equipment such as protective clothing, gloves, masks and air quality monitors.
Quick search and restore
In the early stages of responding to a major earthquake, when multiple sites need to be checked, emergency crews make quick calls to increase the likelihood of saving lives. Teams usually finish one area within a few hours and then move on to the next.
Rescuers can also use this stage to identify areas where a deeper search might be useful. Specially trained dogs can be used to sniff out signs of life by moving quickly through the debris.
In major natural disasters involving teams from many countries, such as the 2021 earthquake in the Caribbean country of Haiti, effective emergency signaling is essential for safe operations in the disaster area due to the language barrier.
All emergency personnel should know how to respond to audible signals, usually from horns or other welcome devices.
Full search and restore
This phase of operations finds and rescues fewer survivors that local rescue teams, first responders, or level 3 operations cannot reach.
Rescuers attempt to penetrate most or all of the surviving voids within the collapsed structures. This process may involve multiple teams and may take several days.
Carbon dioxide detectors and thermal imaging equipment can be used to search for survivors, even if they are unconscious.
Specialist teams can use sensitive audio equipment to detect movements inside buildings, and small video devices can be used to locate people buried under rubble.
Debris usually has to be removed by hand to avoid crushing earthquake survivors with heavy machinery. The following are some of the smaller types of rescue equipment that rescuers may use.
The recovery process that begins after the completion of rescue efforts often involves the removal of large piles of rubble and the removal of bodies.
This work can also be carried out by local teams after the departure of international rescuers. Using heavy machinery and demolition equipment, crews are trying to get to all the cracks inside the collapsed structures.
The difficult decision about when to stop searching for survivors is made by the coordinating UN agency and the state.
It has been found that earthquake survivors buried under the rubble can live for more than two weeks if they have access to water.
However, search and rescue efforts usually cease about a week after a disaster if no survivors have been found in the previous day or two.
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