In the pursuit of shaping the future of Search and Rescue (SAR) operations within the A-PAD framework, A-PAD Sri Lanka took a bold step by initiating a SAR refresher discussion on October 22, 2023. This pivotal event brought together Level 1 and 2 SAR Civil-Military trainees, individuals who are experts in the field of SAR operations, representing renowned organizations such as the Capital Maharaja Group, Lion Brewery PLC, Sri Lanka Air Force, and Sri Lanka Life Saving. The SAR refresher discussion is a testament to A-PAD SL’s commitment to staying at the forefront of SAR operations with the civil military cooperation and collaboration.
To offer their expertise and guide the transformative discussion, Major General (Rtd.) Sudantha Ranasinghe, the Director General of the Disaster Management Center (DMC), Ms. Anoja Senevirathne, Director of Mitigation, Research, and Development at DMC, Mr. Janath Hettiarachchi of the World Food Programme (WFP), and Ms. Vajini Herat Gunarathne, representing the World Bank, were present as observers of the discussion.
The discussions were structured around two fundamental pillars: drafting a localized curriculum for first responders and the creation of standard operating procedures (SOPs) for the deployment of SAR personnel, both before and during a disaster. The division of experts into teams allowed for a detailed and holistic approach.
1. Drafting the First Responder’s Local Curriculum:
The development of a comprehensive local curriculum for first responders in SAR operations took center stage during the discussion. The importance of well-trained SAR personnel cannot be understated, and crafting a well-structured localized curriculum is essential to achieving this goal. The primary topics that were addressed included:
• Identifying training needs
• Candidate Profiling
• Training methodologies
• Resource Allocation
• Assessment and Evaluation
The notable suggestions made by the Director General, Sudantha Ranasinghe and , Director of Mitigation, Research, and Development Ms. Anoja Senevirathne at DMC, during these discussions include embracing online learning for theoretical knowledge, maintaining comprehensive logbooks, providing identification for SAR personnel, implementing a grading system, and ultimately considering the introduction of legal accreditation for all SAR personnel, thus ensuring the highest standards of professionalism and accountability.
2. Crafting standard operating procedures (SOPs) for SAR deployment
A second critical aspect of the discussion focused on the development of standard operating procedures (SOPs) for deploying SAR personnel. These procedures are vital to ensuring the smooth and efficient execution of SAR operations. The timeline activity for SOPs included:
• Raising community awareness three weeks before a disaster
• Deployment of SAR personnel 48 hours before disaster – strategizing and planning
• Deployment of SAR personnel 48 hours during disaster – implementing strategies and rotation of tasks
• Revising and reviewing strategies post-disaster
The teams presented their ideas at the end of the discussion, and Major General (Rtd.) Sudantha Ranasinghe shared his final remarks about creating an algorithm pertaining to the timeline of SAR deployment, acknowledged the development of SOPs, and, furthermore, development of actionable protocols using ideas put forth by the teams. He also emphasized that the coordination of local authorities, military, volunteers, and the communities is pivotal to carrying out an effective and efficient search and rescue deployment in times of disaster.
In conclusion, the SAR refresher discussion united civil and military experts, leaders, and observers to address the crucial elements of the future of SAR operations within the A-PAD framework. The development of a comprehensive SAR curriculum framework and the refinement of Standard Operating Procedures mark significant strides in the evolution of SAR operations, ensuring that we are better equipped to respond to disasters and save lives with greater efficiency and precision. This initiative by A-PAD Sri Lanka is a testament to their commitment to excellence in disaster management and preparedness in the Asia-Pacific region.