Firemen practice earthquake response

Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

PICTURE GALLERY: USS George HW Bush off Stokes Bay

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FIREFIGHTERS are taking part in a training exercise in Portsmouth today simulating rescue efforts after a major earthquake.

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service hosted the UK International Search and Rescue (UKISAR) annual exercise at Fort Widley, on Portsdown Hill, this afternoon.

Search and Rescue team from Belguim operating on a major simulation of a major incident where a person is trapped beneath timber

Search and Rescue team from Belguim operating on a major simulation of a major incident where a person is trapped beneath timber

More than 100 team members from 15 UK fire and rescue services, international participants, and a specialist coordination team from the USA will be taking part.

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service’s Pete Crook, the national coordinator for UKISAR, has organised the event.

He said: ‘This is an ideal opportunity for urban search and rescue teams to come together and practice in realistic and challenging conditions.

‘As personnel can be mobilised to a wide variety of international disaster zones it is critical that they have the opportunity to train in realistic scenarios such as this mock-up of the aftermath of an earthquake.

‘We are also field testing a new UN coordination system for the first time which will hopefully improve worldwide rescue response in the future.

During the scenarios, teams were field testing a new UN coordination system with the hope of improving worldwide rescue response in the future.’

It attracted a team of 50 rescuers from Belgium and a specialist coordination team from the USA.

Fire battalion chief John Boyle, from LA County Fire Department, was among the crew from across the Atlantic.

He has helped locate survivors of the earthquakes in Christchurch, New Zealand, and Haiti.

He said: ‘We’re here exercising a new methodology in coordination of urban search and rescue teams in a large disaster.

‘This event can bring more understanding and awareness and practising this new methodology of coordination, breaking widespread disasters into manageable pieces that manageable have spans of control.

Hampshire Fire and Rescue group manage Pete Crook, the national coordinator for UKISAR, said: ‘It’s a big event, we’ve got a good site here and it’s a UK event that happens to be in Hampshire.

‘We can run a good exercise here and it’s good for us.

‘It’s a lot of work to set up but we’ve learned a lot from it.

‘The teams here have responded to places like Haiti and Japan in the last few years and we don’t want them to happen but they do. They’re increasing, not decreasing, but the challenge on the ground gets harder and harder.

‘We need to coordinate the teams from the countries that help out and this is what the exercise is all about.’

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