Imagine a scenario where search-and-rescue personnel from China, Saudi Arabia and Brunei are brought together to carry out relief work. With members of each team speaking their own language, communication and collaboration can become a major hurdle.
However, a common code set out in the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (Insarag) guidelines enables emergency relief teams from around the world to work seamlessly whenever and wherever disaster strikes.
This was one of the main objectives of the Asean Regional Forum (ARF) Workshop that was co-hosted by the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) and the China Earthquake Administration this week.
The three-day workshop, which ended yesterday, was the second to be held under the ARF. The first one was held in Beijing in May.
About 100 search-and-rescue personnel from 12 territories in the region, such as the Philippines, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Brunei, were in Singapore for the workshop. It provided a platform for emergency relief teams to exchange techniques as well as understand each other's strengths and weaknesses, said Mr Zhuang Qian Jiang, 45, leader of the China International Search and Rescue Team.
"This will help us work together when we meet on the ground," added Mr Zhuang, who was a workshop facilitator.
Yesterday, participants were tasked to rescue casualties in a quake-hit building that had partially collapsed, in a simulated exercise at the Home Team Tactical Centre in Mandai Quarry Road.
They were able to put into practice various skills and Insarag protocols that they had learnt at the workshop, such as rope rescue techniques and rescue operations in confined spaces.
DIFFERENT TONGUES, COMMON LANGUAGE
It was eye-opening to see how we had different techniques but still had the same objective under Insarag.
SECOND WARRANT OFFICER MOHAMMED FAYRUS ABDUL RASIT, on practising the Insarag code with global teams at the workshop.
Insarag guidelines are a set of internationally accepted procedures for emergency relief endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly Resolution. They include undertaking standard operating procedures to access disaster sites, among other things.
The guidelines serve as a tool that unites emergency teams on the ground, said SCDF's Second Warrant Officer Mohammed Fayrus Abdul Rasit, 35, who attended the course. This was something he had witnessed during a humanitarian mission to Nepal after the 2015 earthquake.
"It was eye-opening to see how we had different techniques but still had the same objective under Insarag," said WO2 Mohammed Fayrus, who is part of SCDF's Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team (Dart).
SCDF's Lieutenant-Colonel Chew Keng Tok, 45, who was overall facilitator, said such workshops foster better working relationships among emergency relief teams.
Said Lt-Col Chew, who is Dart commander: "When they part ways, there's still a connection. And when they meet again, there will be better collaboration."
Correction note: The article has been edited to reflect the correct spelling of Mr Zhuang Qian Jiang's surname.