It is a matter of great honour for Pakistan that the Pakistan Rescue Team of Emergency Services Academy (Rescue 1122) Lahore has become the First United Nations - INSARAG Classified team in South Asia after completing an extensive evaluation process of several years under supervision of UN-INSARAG Mentors.  International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG) is the official certifying body of United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA) for International Search & Rescue Teams. 

Last year, a team of United Nations International Classifiers from Austria, England, Germany, Switzerland, Morocco, Jordan and United Nations - INSARAG Secretariat in Geneva came to Lahore from 28th to 31st October 2019 for final evaluation of team. 

It was great moment last year in 2019 at Governor House, when Winston Chang from United Nation INSARAG Secretariat made official announcement and said that I like to start with the famous quote from the Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, World Champion Cricketer he said I quote “Never Give up, no matter how hard, keep going and don’t give up”. Today “Pakistan Rescue Team stands tall amongst the world elite as officially United Nations Classified Urban Search & Rescue Teams”. 

Becoming part of Global Network in the field of disaster response is milestone achievement for the country and after this classification, Pakistan Rescue Team is certified from UN-INSARAG to conduct search and rescue operations anywhere in the world. Congratulations Prime Minister for international achievement. This specialized Search & Rescue Team is stationed at the Emergency Services Academy Lahore Pakistan strategically located almost in the Centre of the country and can be deployed within the country or internationally in case of any disaster. 

This academy has a purpose built rubble field for urban search & rescue training facility with trained staff and specialized equipment as per INSARAG guidelines essential for international deployment in case of a disaster. 

Although, this academy is situated in Punjab but playing role of national organization as over 20,000 emergency professionals across Pakistan have been trained in this academy. 

Besides that, the academy has already organized SAARC Rescue challenge in 2018 for capacity building of emergency services of SAARC countries and nine national rescue challenge in order to improve coordination and uniform standard of emergency services in the country and three National Community Emergency Response Challenges to provide platform to volunteer teams to exhibit their professional skills and promote volunteerism. 

The process of final 36 hrs Evaluation for INSARAG External Classification (IEC) was a complete simulation exercise about the procedure from team preparation to travel and deployment in another country and conduct of search and rescue operation in affected country. The classifiers team of United Nations INSARAG Secretariat including Mr Peter Goxharaj, Christian Resch, Thomas Nesensohn, Amjad Al-Huniti, Soufian Samghouli,   Winston Chang Wei Shen, Robert John Norman and Sean Moore were assigned to evaluate all the process. 

They all evaluated different phases from documentations review to the end of the exercise. The simulation includes disaster alert, team activation, pre deployment including team registration, medical screening, logistic issuance and team briefing, mobilization of the team and custom and immigration check to reach the affected country, Team Leader Dr Farhan Khalid and key members of the Team organized coordination meetings with local authorities, set up of Reception/ Departure Centre to facilitate all teams coming for help the affected country. 

Base of Operation (BoO) was established to start the operation and selected member of the team also performed Urban Search and Rescue Coordination Cell (UCC) as United Nations members to centrally deploy the different teams coming for assistance. 

Pakistan Rescue Team conducted Wide Area Assessment/ Search and started Rescue Operation including concrete cutting, breaching, horizontal approach rescue, crane operation, field amputation, rope rescue extrication from confined space, vertical shoring as per international guidelines. 

Debriefing and demobilization of the team was also done at the end. During all these functions different injects were given by exercise control to check the team professionalism and understanding of the assignments as per INSARAG guidelines. 

All members were under observation, as single safety breach or major violation could cause disqualification of the team. The collective and tireless efforts of the Team Commander Dr Rizwan Naseer, Team Leader Dr Farhan Khalid all squad leaders and team members actually raised the flag of the country at highest level by getting international achievement. 

They all undoubtedly through professionals of disaster management.  Pakistan Rescue Team highly acknowledge and appreciate the selfless services of Mr Edward G Pearn first Team mentor from England and the efforts of all international experts from different countries for capacity building of team. 

The support of Government of the Pakistan, Punjab, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Pakistan, UN-OCHA PAKISTAN, UN- OCHA INSARAG Secretariat, UNDSS, SDC and all concerned organization is highly acknowledged. 

Happy anniversary to team and congrats to all Pakistan for becoming the first United Nations Certified Team in South Asia. Long Live Pakistan.

The writer is a Member United Nations INSARAG Classifies Pakistan Rescue Team.