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Image courtesy of NZ Fire Service

New Zealand USAR advances their Technology Capability

Urban search and rescue was created by a small group of enthusiastic people who had the foresight of a USAR capability in NZ. They begged, stole and borrowed equipment including personal protective clothing to form the capability they strongly believed was needed for NZ.

On the 8th March 2015 New Zealand USAR underwent their INSARAG external classification in a bid to be classified as a “Heavy” team. They successfully achieved this after two and a half years of preparation and a significant financial cost and resource commitment. The Taskforce now known as NZL 1 were thrilled to receive 129 green and 7 yellow lights. The build up was run with three work-streams running simultaneously and their associated project plans and cost allocations.

USAR Management Team – A new structure was introduced to provide a connection between the management of the team and the team members. The CAT3 component is all NZFS commanders who bring to the USAR command function a long a distinguished incident command level of experience. They lead the functional work-streams to provide governance and enabling to those work-streams.

Functional Work-streams – Membership is encouraged from each of the three geographically located teams. The work-stream provides a National and therefore consistent direction for the various functions within USAR. Equipment purchasing had been a problem area for us prior to the establishment of the work-streams.

After the Christchurch earthquake in Feb 2011 several independent reviews made recommendations for a new management structure. This also involved the introduction of the NZFS ranks into the USAR organisation structure. A National USAR Manager was appointed to provide direction domestically, engage with other domestic emergency response partners and to promote NZ USAR at a political and international level.

Information & Communications technologies are a rapidly changing environment and NZ USAR wanted to ensure they not only introduced a new electronic method of data collection and in a collaborative space to share that data but developed this on a platform the rest of the NZFS could consume.

Image courtesy of NZ Fire Service

Image courtesy of NZ Fire Service

The result was the following…

In 2014, the NZ Fire Service established a technology solution to support Rapid Disaster Assessment by the NZ Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) task force, also supporting NZ USAR External Classification as an International USAR Task Force [Heavy] under the United Nations International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG) framework in March 2015. The solution is built on the NZFS ESRI enterprise technology platform and supports NZ USAR Domestic and International deployments effectively through incident ground data collection and resource tracking (using tablets and ESRI Collector for ArcGIS software), real-time situation awareness in the USAR Base of Operations and Coordination Centres to support Incident Controller and Task Force leader decisions (using ESRI Operations Dashboard software), and provision of near real-time intelligence to other agencies globally through Cloud-based data storage and delivery (ESRI ArcGIS Online). The solution meets the operational protocols, forms and workflows defined by the United Nations and INSARAG and are also being deployed to Civil Defence and Emergency Management groups throughout New Zealand to support the Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management (MCDEM) requirements for a Rapid Impact Assessment solution.

The practicalities of this is a Samsung Galaxy Note 10.4 tablet with 3G and Wifi options for connection directly with the cloud or with a another new ICT component also developed by NZ USAR. The deployment case boosts the following features;

  • 4 x Bearer source, BGAN, Wireless, WAN, 4G
  • USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports
  • 6 Port Ethernet with POE
  • 2 x 1GB HDD in raid configuration
  • 1 x USB External HDD for backup
  • OS Windows server 2012
  • UPS which allows 30 mins operation at full load
  • External power source from a car battery, 110-240V supply
  • Mouse, Keyboard and USB screen inside the lid
  • Router with load balancing and priority between bearers
  • The inside of the case is painted with RF resistant paint.

For more information, go to www.fire.org.nz

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Gavin Travers is the National Operations Advisor (USAR) this role includes being the National USAR Manager based at National Headquarters in Wellington. He is a 32 year veteran firefighter and has progressed through the ranks to Area Commander.