Indonesia’s SAR forges international cooperation

Basarnas, the national body tasked with carrying out search and rescue operations, is to foster international cooperation with similar organizations abroad to improve the professional skills of its operators, a senior-ranking official stated. “We are seeking cooperation with similar organizations from China, Australia and the US,” the Basarnas head, Lt. Gen. M. Alfan Baharudin, stated Tuesday on the sidelines of the first ASEAN Transport SAR Forum (ATSF) in Kuta. Baharudin stressed that the skills and capability possessed by Basarnas operators were among the highest in ASEAN countries.

However, he pointed out: “We need to continuously enhance and develop the skills of our operators.” He added that, once established, the international cooperation would enable the participating search and rescue organization to share their accumulated field knowledge and experience. “Our operators will also get opportunities to train and learn about specific search and rescue techniques.” He argued that such training and capacity building was critical in the ongoing effort to become classified as an international search and rescue agency.

To date, Basarnas is not able to participate in search and rescue missions in other countries because only organizations classified as “Medium Team” or “Heavy Team” are allowed to do so. “Our classification is still ‘Light Team’,” he said. The International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG), the international network tasked with developing internationally accepted procedures and systems for sustained cooperation between national urban search and rescue organizations operating on the international scene, has developed a voluntary, independent peer review process for international urban search and rescue teams.

This process is known as INSARAG External Classification (IEC). Through this process, urban search and rescue teams deploying internationally are classified as “Medium Team” or “Heavy Team” according to their respective operational capabilities. Between 2005 and 2010, classification was successfully carried out on 21 international teams. An urban search and rescue “Heavy Team”, according to the IEC guidelines, must fulfill several requirements, including having the operational capability for complex technical search and rescue operations in collapsed or failed structures, particularly those involving structures reinforced or built with structural steel; and be adequately staffed and logistically sufficient to allow for 24-hour operations at two independent sites for up to 10 days.

At present, Basarnas is still struggling to overcome several issues. Lack of manpower is the first, as the organization has only 3,000 personnel deployed in 33 field offices across the nation. This number is far from ideal for a country as large as Indonesia. Another pressing problem is insufficient equipment. Basarnas deputy chief Air Vice-Marshal Sunarbowo Sandi said, “Search and rescue missions on the ground will not trouble our operators. Missions at sea and underwater would pose a problem due to the lack of proper equipment.” Sunarbowo pointed out that Basarnas operators would not be able to carry out search and rescue operations at a depth of more than 130 meters, a fact that has spurred the organization to plan the purchase of a special submarine in 2014. The purchase will also help in the effort to be categorized for international operations.

source : bali daily

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