Quake exercise to train search and rescue crews

23:59, Aug 17 2014

A large-scale earthquake, killing more than 1000 people and leaving many more injured and trapped, is due to hit Palmerston North.

But there's no need to panic, it's just a rehearsal.

The event, being held from August 25 to 27, has been planned for several months by the New Zealand Fire Service for its Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) teams.

It will include a rope rescue from the second floor of the city council building in The Square, while out at the site of the former Longburn freezing works, teams will practice shoring up a collapsed wall, tunnelling into debris and searching for victims.

It will be the biggest exercise of its kind to be held in New Zealand, and the final practice of its size for USAR teams, who are building up to assessment by the United Nations for official classification as a "heavy" USAR team.

Tactical leader Bernie Rush, who is on the USAR management team, said the exercise would be assessed by mentors from Australia, who would report back to the UN on their readiness to undertake the qualification exercise, which would also feature the Longburn site.

News of the construction of an inland port at Longburn would not impact their operations, as they rented another part of the site.

The assessment takes place in March and examines all aspects of the team's readiness, training standards, equipment, capability and procedures. Teams with the heavy classification are internationally recognised as having the operational capability for difficult and complex technical search and rescue operations.

Gaining full certification through the United Nations International Search and Rescue Advisory Group will further prepare them to deploy overseas, to disasters in the Pacific, Australia and Southeast Asia.


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