Sending too many rescue teams ‘makes disasters worse’
TRAVELLING to post-war Iraq in 1991 to assist Kurdish communities bombed in the first Gulf War, volunteer UK firefighters were unknowingly laying the foundations for their country to play a greater part in global disaster response.
Two years later, UK International Search and Rescue was formed and has since spent the last 25 years responding to the world’s worst disasters, including in Japan, Nepal, Turkey, Indonesia and Haiti.
However, as he leaves his role as national coordinator, Sean Moore, 52, warns that although international disaster response is better than ever, rescue teams can bring “disaster on top of disaster” if too many groups descend on a country after an incident.
“It’s got 100 per cent better than it was, but there’s definitely some way to go,” he told The Sunday Telegraph. “For example, 76 teams went to Nepal in 2015, which in terms of co-ordination was a disaster on top of a disaster as it put more of a burden on that country than we were meant to do.
“I think disaster-prone countries need to consider how best to approach assistance. There are dozens of megacities around the world with a population over 10 million and a lot of those are on major fault lines. For example, Istanbul is overdue a major earthquake and we could be better prepared for it.”
Mr Moore, a father of two from Coventry, has been involved internationally in the development of policy and guidelines and in training programs taught in over 100 countries.
“All of the disasters I’ve been on I can recall very easily, it’s not about the sights you see but the smells and sounds you get exposed to as well. The desperation you see – these are some of the world’s very worst disasters we get sent to,” he said.
“Every time we have made a rescue, whether I was involved directly or indirectly as my role has changed from hands on to a team leader, every single one of those is a memory for me because it’s someone’s life and I always put myself in their position as if it was a member of my family.”
He said of retiring: “I’ve been dreading this point, it’s been one of the biggest things in my life for 28 years. But I’ve still got lots of experience to give back, so I don’t plan to rest as I love what I do.”
‘There are dozens of cities with a population of over 10 million and a lot of those are on major fault lines’