GFMC: International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG)

insarag.gif (1375 Byte) UN International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG)

INSARAG is an inter-governmental network under the United Nations umbrella, which deals with urban search and rescue (USAR) and related disaster response issues. Its purpose is to provide a platform for information exchange in order to define standards for international USAR assistance and to develop methodology for international cooperation and coordination in earthquake response. INSARAG includes earthquake-prone countries as well as traditional providers of international assistance.

Experience has shown that secondary effects of natural and technogenic disasters require additional specialist advice in conjunction with SAR response and other humanitarian aid missions. This is particularly important at the interface between wildlands and urban and other residential areas interface where wildland fires constitute a major problem for urban populations. Related hazards also include the smoke pollution caused by wildland fires which is threatening public health in urban and other residential areas.

At the INSARAG Regional Group Africa/Europe meeting in December 1999 (Germany) a first proposal was elaborated to establish an INSARAG Fire Group consisting of three subgroups:

  • Wildland Fire
  • Hazardous Materials (Hazmat)
  • Industrial Fire

At a meeting at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA) in January 2000 it was agreed that the original mandate of INSARAG which in addition to search and rescue would also covers wider aspects of disaster/emergency response. This could include a variety of natural and human-made disasters, including wildland fires. INSARAG would assist in strengthening UN-OCHA’s role by:

  • Governmental experts advisory support in case of a major emergency 
  • Advisory experts to be provided out of the INSARAG family covering many fields of disaster relief 

At the foundation meeting of INSARAG Fire it was recommended:

  • INSARAG-Fire is a global network of specialists in dealing with industrial fire, wildland fire and HAZMAT incidents affecting populations and the environment 
  • INSARAG-Fire is organized in regional nodes 
  • INSARAG-Fire has been initiated by a Starting Core Group of INSARAG Europe-Africa and will seek the establishment of Fire groups in the INSARAG Americas and Asia-Pacific regions. 
  • Activation of involvement of existing international structures by calling on wildland fire expertise of international organizations and individuals already in place will be coordinated through the Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC) network 
  • Encourage a continuous exchange of information through the Internet, initially utilizing the GFMC network

At BALTEX FIRE 2000 the meeting of the FAO/ECE/ILO Fire Team further elaborated on the formation of the INSARAG Fire Group and particularly on wildland fire activities. The final format of INSARAG Fire was agreed upon at the INSARAG Regional Group Africa/Europe Meeting (Tunisia, November 2000).

Following the recommendations of the 2002 INSARAG Regional Group Africa/Europe Meeting (Revinge, Sweden, April 2002) it was recommended to review the Fire Group and to investigate alternative arrangements outside of INSARAG. One of the main reasons for discontinuing the Fire Group was the UN General Assembly  Resolution A/57/L.60 on Strengthening the Effectiveness and Coordination of International Urban Search and Rescue Assistance (adopted in December 2002). The resolution encourages the international community to strengthen cooperation in search and rescue after earthquakes only.

Following the GA Resolution a Fire Group meeting was held at the GFMC (Freiburg, Germany, 7 February 2003).

In April 2003 the INSARAG Steering Committee and the Regional Africa/Europe Group decided to discontinue the work of the Fire Group.

The GFMC is investigating future collaborative arrangements in international wildland fire disaster response under the umbrella of the Advisory Group on Environmental Emergencies (AGEE). Update information will be provided by end of May 2003.


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