Search team spends only two hours at scene of earthquake

A five-member team of Red Deer search and rescue volunteers were in earthquake-ravaged L’Aquila for only two hours when the search for survivors was called off. “Logistics — what can you do?” said Marcel Schur, a veteran search and rescue volunteer.

A five-member team of Red Deer search and rescue volunteers were in earthquake-ravaged L’Aquila for only two hours when the search for survivors was called off.

“Logistics — what can you do?” said Marcel Schur, a veteran search and rescue volunteer.

The team pulled together its sophisticated cameras and acoustics equipment designed to find trapped survivors quickly after hearing about the devastating earthquake in central Italy April 6.

Two days later they were in Italy; got their vehicles sorted out Thursday; and were in their designated search area by 2 p.m. that day. At 4:15 p.m. search organizers determined there were no more missing survivors in that area and the search was called off.

Schur said they did not have time to deploy their telescopic cameras on bendable arms that can be threaded into rubble piles to find those trapped.

They also brought an acoustic device that can detect the sound of a survivor scratching their fingernail against rock 10 metres down.

Schur said he has no regrets for the experience, which cost each team member $3,000 out of their own pocket for airfare, accommodations and other bills.

“Oh yeah — absolutely,” he responded when asked if all the effort was worth it. “Everyone knows it’s a possibility (they won’t be needed). They all plan for it.”

The key lesson learned is that the team must find ways to get in the air with all of its equipment faster.

“If you want to be able to provide the best and most effective response you have to deploy quicker.”

As soon as the team got home last Monday (APRIL 13) they unpacked and repacked their gear to be ready for the next emergency. They are already looking at ways to have search equipment and other gear even more ready to go.

They are also looking at ways to streamline travel arrangements.

“Our biggest problem is trying to get a flight out.” Another key issue is finding suitable transportation at the other end of what is often a long journey.

Red Deer Search and Rescue is looking at whether a local travel agent could be recruited to help with logistics.

The Italian disaster also provided other insights into innovative ways to respond to emergencies.

To help sort out who was missing or who was just out of the earthquake area on vacation or business, a telethon was aired on Italian TV. Residents away from their homes or already harbouring relatives could phone in and let authorities know.

It was an idea that might have worked following the Pine Lake tornado in 2000, he said.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com

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