Chief Fire Officer and CFOA lead on international search and rescue, Mike Thomas, talks about his team's experience of coming home from this year's catastrophic Caribbean earthquake. 

"It is six months since the United Kingdom International Search and Rescue (UKISAR) team returned from the devastating earthquake in Haiti and the trauma for the Haitian people continues.

"This trauma is unseen by a less-than caring world, with many thousands still living in makeshift accommodation. Many more, meanwhile, live under canvas in areas not as badly devastated by the earthquake, but still prone to the flooding and bad weather that typifies the region at this time of the year. The Haitian government is still struggling to find the means to make the difference to ordinary people's lives. Of course those that knew of Haiti before the devastation will argue that it was struggling before it happened.

"For the UK ISAR team, however, the scenes are so vivid, it is as if it were yesterday. The priority for us on returning, of course, was to get back together with our families and friends and to try to make some order out of the bombardment of our senses. We very much relied on our families and friends as well as the more formal structures in our various brigades that provide occupational support for traumatic incidents.

"After these types of events, the post-incident reviews are important so the team can continue to develop. Whilst we are an integral part of the UN response mechanism we have already held three debriefs all aimed at identifying the strengths of the international response and coordination of efforts, as well as those areas that did not work quite so well."


See September issue of FIRE magazine for full story.