IN PREPARATION for the possibility of an earthquake disaster, rescue teams from Singapore, Brunei and Malaysia participated in the first Asean regional disaster emergency response exercise (Ardex ’05) on Monday at a construction site in Seri Kembangan.
Personnel from the Special Malaysian Assistance and Response Team (SMART), Fire and Rescue Department, Malaysian Red Crescent Society and the police force took part in the drill, as well as personnel from Singapore’s Disaster Assistance Reserve Team (DART) and Brunei’s Fire Services Department.
The hypothetical scenario for the disaster was that an earthquake had struck Malaysia with the Klang Valley being worst hit, and trapped in an abandoned apartment building in Seri Kembangan are hundreds of civilians.
Singapore civil defence force deputy commissioner Peter Lim stressed that Ardex ’05 was not purely training but was important to build up relationships between Asean countries.
“This exercise will aid us in understanding how different search and rescue teams work, therefore giving us an idea on how to co-ordinate better should a disaster occur,” he said.
However, he hoped protocol could be improved as for now immigration and customs took up too much time.
“Sometimes it takes a while for the government to process an approval – it is important that they make it easy for foreign aid to enter the country as the first 24 hours of a rescue are critical.”
Brunei fire services department acting director Johari Jaludin also expressed concern over the delays the team had to put up with at the airport.
“Instead of standing in line with commercial flight passengers there should be a special reception counter for rescue teams and the like. We stood in the queue for 20 minutes at immigration,” he said.
However, he felt positive about the benefits such exercises would bring about.
“This is a good initiative by the Asean Secretariat, as it encourages neighbours to help each other out and gives us an idea on what to do during a real disaster,” said Johari.
The Brunei fire services department has sent teams to Manila and Singapore for similar exercises but this is the first time they have participated in one of such proportions.
An important part of a rescue that is often overlooked is what happens after a victim has been rescued and attended to by medics.
Sulaiman Ismail, head of the Petaling Jaya Briged Kebajikan Perdana unit, explained that they too play an important role in disasters.
“We provide food, mattresses and a comfortable resting area for victims after they have received medical care,” he said.
The exercise saw seven members of the unit putting to practice what they have been trained to do – aiding medical personnel in attending to victims and providing them with round-the-clock care afterwards.