U.S. Government Builds Urban Search-and-Rescue Capacity in Mongolia

From June 22–26, the U.S. Government joined the Government of Mongolia and international partners to support the Asia-Pacific Earthquake Exercise in Ulaanbaatar.  The exercise aimed to improve national and regional disaster response capacity and focused on urban search-and-rescue (USAR) operations.  Representing the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA), USAR professionals from Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department and Los Angeles County Fire Department participated in the exercise.  USAID/OFDA’s USAR Program Manager, Dewey Perks, served as the exercise director.

This exercise established and strengthened relationships within the international USAR community and familiarized participants with USAR deployment and coordination procedures through USAR trainings and a real-life disaster scenario.  During the scenario, participants simulated a response to an earthquake that required international USAR assistance.  Similar to a real-life response, participants had to quickly assess the situation, prioritize needs, and develop a rescue strategy to save people trapped under rubble.

Hosted by the National Emergency Management Agency of Mongolia, this training exercise was organized by the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG).   INSARAG is a global network of more than 80 countries and organizations affiliated with the United Nations. As the INSARAG secretariat, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) facilitated international participation and coordinated the international component of the exercise.  INSARAG deals with urban search and rescue (USAR) related issues, aiming to establish minimum international standards for USAR teams and methodology for international coordination in earthquake response.This year’s training in Mongolia marked the fourth time that USAID/OFDA has co-funded the Asia-Pacific Earthquake Exercise.