The UK’s Experience with International Search and Rescue Efforts
As globalization has progressed, the fire service and rescue authorities have changed their approach concerning fire prevention and community fire safety. In many cases, these organizations are now looking beyond their own nation’s borders for mutual assistance and disaster response. This shift has been driven by a number of factors, including the increasing frequency and severity of natural disasters, the rise of terrorism, and the need for international development.
In 2004, the UK government’s Department for International Development (DFID) published a report on the international search and rescue efforts that had been carried out in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York. The report noted that, while the majority of search and rescue operations are conducted within national boundaries, there is an increasing need for cross-border cooperation.
The UK’s Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004 requires all fire and rescue authorities to provide mutual assistance to other authorities in the event of a major incident. This includes providing advice, equipment, or personnel to assist with firefighting, search and rescue, or medical operations.
In 2006, the UK’s then-international development secretary, Douglas Alexander, announced that the DFID would be providing £10 million over four years to support the development of an International Rescue Corps. The IRC is a partnership between the UK government and eight other nations (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States). The IRC provides training and support to help developing countries improve their own search and rescue capabilities.
In 2010, following the Haiti earthquake, the UK deployed a team of 50 search and rescue experts to assist with the relief effort. The team was drawn from a number of different agencies, including firefighters, paramedics, police officers, and military personnel.
The UK has also contributed to international search and rescue efforts in Japan (following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami), Nepal (after the 2015 earthquake), and Italy (after the 2016 earthquake).
As globalization continues to progress, it is likely that the need for international cooperation on fire and rescue matters will only grow. The UK’s experience shows that such cooperation can be beneficial for all involved parties: it helps to build capacity in developing countries; it allows developed countries to share their expertise; and it can save lives in times of crisis.