The Urban Search and Rescue Department is active since 1994 and its purpose is the immediate and coordinated response in cases of extensive disasters, like earthquakes, floods and big scale accidents.
The long experience of this department, the technological equipment and the technical training of its members allows it to operate successfully, whenever called upon, in the following fields:
1) Natural disasters response
a) earthquakes response
b) water pumping
c) forest firefighting
2) Provide training to students and other organizations about earthquake protection measures and conducting preparedness exercises.
The training of the department's members includes:
• victim locating in ruins techniques
• ruins penetration and victims evacuation
• evacuation of trapped victims in traffic accidents
• floods tackling
• Ηandling of special technological equipment needed for each of the above cases.
At the same time, for better acquaintance in real conditions, there are regularly organised local or nationwide preparedness exercises in cooperation either with local branches or with other authorities such as Fire Service, Disaster Response Special Unit, Municipalities, other voluntary organizations, etc.
Here are some examples:
Komotini • 2005 - 2nd Pan-Hellenic Earthquake Disaster Response Exercise
• Volos 2006 - Seismic Disasters Exercise involving 300 members of GRT and 60 Turkish volunteer rescuers
• Patras 2009 - 6th Pan-Hellenic Seismic Disaster Response Exercise
Thessaloniki • 2010 - Participation in an exercise of cooperation between 16 voluntary organizations in earthquake scenario in factory
• Thessaloniki 2012 – Co-training with the Disaster Response Special Unit (EMAK) for locating victims in ruins and the safe use of rescue tools
• Thermi 2013 - Participation in the exercise "AEGIS", the 1st Exercise of Camp Organization and Management, organised by the Municipality of Thermi with the cooperation of nine volunteer organisations.
Also regular is the participation in international exercises in the context of mutual development of business relations and exchange of expertise.
Examples of such exercises are listed below:
• Armenia 2005 - International exercise of UN / INSARAG with 15 countries participating
• Cyprus 2006 - International exercise of UN / INSARAG with participation of 14 countries
• Turkey 2006 - Exercise in cooperation with Turkish agencies
The department has a long history of international missions both in Greece and abroad:
- Earthquake in Aigion (1995)
- Earthquake in Turkey (1999)
- Earthquake in Athens (1999)
- Earthquake in Algeria (2003)
- Earthquake in Morocco (2004)
- Earthquake in Indonesia (2004)
- Earthquake in Pakistan (2005)
- Floods in Magnesia (2006)
- Fires in Achaia (2007)
- Earthquake in Haiti (2010)
- Earthquake in Chile (2010)
The milestone, however, of HRT's missions was the search and rescue operation during the big earthquake in Haiti in 2010. There, HRT’s volunteers managed to find and save 23 year-old Exantus, when all international rescuers had stopped searching for survivors.
The department has specialised equipment:
• Hydraulic Rescue Series, which includes Dilator, Cutter, Telescopic Piston
• High Pressure Airbags (special lifting cushions)
• Stabilizing Set (mechanical stabilizers)
• Rescue Petrol Wheels
• Pumping systems
• Victims locating in ruins camera
• Survivors locating in ruins sonar
• Telecommunications equipment
In addition to the above, the Department has on-hand equipment necessary to support operational search and rescue missions.