SCDF unit gets top marks as urban search-and-rescue team in UN certification

Commissioner Eric Yap places the Heavy USAR Team Badge on NSman Lieutenant-Colonel Alvin Low. -- PHOTO: SCDF
Commissioner Eric Yap places the Heavy USAR Team Badge on NSman Lieutenant-Colonel Alvin Low. -- PHOTO: SCDF
Members of the Singapore Civil Defence Force's overseas rescue unit, code-named Operation Lionheart. -- PHOTO: SCDF
Members of the Singapore Civil Defence Force's overseas rescue unit, code-named Operation Lionheart. -- PHOTO: SCDF

Singapore's elite rescue team has earned the highest possible grading for an urban search-and-rescue team for the second time in a row.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force's (SCDF) overseas rescue unit, code-named Operation Lionheart, was certified a Heavy Urban Search and Rescue Team by rescue experts from the United Nations. The certification means the team can respond to disasters anywhere in the world.

The 76-member Lionheart team, who is on stand-by around the clock, underwent a 36-hour exercise since last Thursday, which tested the team's ability to be deployed quickly, as well as, search and rescue victims trapped under collapsed buildings. They had to use techniques such as cutting and lifting, tunnelling and using life detectors and search dogs.

The Lionheart team got its certification - its second since 2008 - from Mr Terje Skavdal, Chief of Field Coordination Support Section and Secretary of the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG) at a ceremony held on Saturday at the Civil Defence Academy.

UN-sanctioned rescue teams have to undergo the certification test every five years. Lionheart teams have responded to 13 overseas disasters since its was formed in 1990, including the 2011 earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand and Dec 26, 2004 tsunami.