First Hellenic – Turkish military Natural Disaster SAR exercise

On 8 November 2006 the first joint Hellenic – Turkish military Natural Disaster SAR exercise (“NDSAR 06) was conducted in Ankara, in the framework of implementation of the Building of Confidence Measures between the two countries, as agreed by the respective Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Chiefs of Defence. The Hellenic Air Force participated with a detachment of the HAF Disaster Response Team (KOMAK). Turkey participated with the NDSAR Battalion (DAK).

The objectives of the exercise were to improve cooperation capabilities in NDSAR, to improve and test NDSAR SOP/TTPs (Standard Operating Procedures/ Tactics, Techniques and Procedures) in case of a natural disaster and to exercise the capability of co-operative working, coordination and execution of the NDSAR activities, deployment, employment and redeployment of both countries’ military NDSAR units. The exercise was conducted at the Ankara Civil Defence Unit.

According to the exercise scenario, an earthquake struck Ankara on 3 November with a magnitude of 7.4 and caused extensive damages. The Turkish NDSAR Battalion reconnaissance team reached the disaster area and reported that many buildings were completely damaged while thousands of inhabitants were injured and others were trapped in the rubbles. Communications and electricity networks had collapsed and only limited transportation was possible. Residents were in fear and there was widespread panic in the area. First NDSAR teams reached the disaster area at 07.20 pm and begun NDSAR tasks in some selected damaged buildings. Based on bilateral agreements/MOUs between the Hellenic Republic and Turkey, an international call for help was issued by the Turkish Government through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Hellenic Authorities informed the HNDGS about the situation and preparations for the deployment of KOMAK into the Turkish disaster area begun. The Hellenic Authorities gave affirmative response to the Turkish request. On arrival at Ankara by a HAF C-130, KOMAK moved into the disaster area and set up its own camp. The Turkish authorities provided close force protection, water, food and interpretation support.

Following the initiation of a preliminary rescue plan, the orderly SAR operation begun with the removal of the surface victims. This phase was conducted as conducted as quickly and safely as possible. Following an initial clinical evaluation, the joint medical team decided about the type of medical care, which was provided either on the scene or the nearby field med centre. When first aid provision was completed, the victims were evacuated from the site.

Then, the second and more complicated stage of the rescue operation commenced. Specially trained search dogs and handlers from both teams made a thorough check of the collapsed building. Telescopic fibre optic mini cameras and electronic listening devices were used in order to provide an image of the situation under the debris. The site was then marked in order to identify the location of the victims. Medium machinery in the form of reinforced concrete penetration and cutting tools were used by joint rescue teams to enter the structure either vertically or horizontally. Treatment in the field of trapped victims included the placement of tourniquet and a first infusion of crystalides. The primary task was the quick evacuation to a nearby hospital where proper treatment could be applied. According to the scenario, redeployment begun on 10 November 2006 when it was believed that there was no possibility of survivors beneath the rubbles.

The exercise was conducted in a co-operative climate and its objectives were fully met.