First in NZ for First Responder Accreditation

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Published: 08 Mar 2017

Timaru District Council Civil Defence Response Team volunteers are the first in New Zealand to receive an international accreditation after being put through their paces as first responders.

The volunteers undertook the practical assessment of the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG) First Responder qualification last weekend, testing their skills in meeting the needs of the affected population at the onset of a disaster.

They were guided through the course by Urban Search and Rescue specialists from the New Zealand Fire Service.

The team have been undertaking practical training for around two hours a week since August in preparation for the day, learning everything from rope rescue and rubble stabilising and clearance skills, to how to access a building through the wall when the doors and windows aren’t available.

Mark Crowe, Response Team Manager, said that the whole team are grateful for the support and guidance of the local Urban Search and Rescue Team and the NZ Fire Service.

“This is the first time this course has been delivered in NZ, and we believe the first time as a joint agency has undertaken the course in the world,” he said.

“We started the program in August 2016 and significant investment in time and resources have gone into training this group of volunteers to be quickly mobilised to support USAR teams in the event of a disaster.

“We’re really grateful for the support of NZFS USAR in helping us to achieve this milestone qualification and building local disaster resilience for the people of Timaru District.”

INSARAG is part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, they are a collaborative body of disaster prone countries charged with building local capability in disaster preparedness and response.

Gaining the qualification means that CD volunteers are now 'USAR First Responders' and can support in assessing the nature and scale of the incident, rescuing and providing basic casualty care in the initial stages of a collapse incident, provide information to domestic decision-makers about the event and request the appropriate resources required to successfully complete the rescue phase.

The Timaru Civil Defence and Emergency Management Response Team is currently looking to increase their size and capability. If you are interested in joining the team, contact Mark Crowe on 03 687 7272 or email

Last updated: 24 Feb 2021