Rescue SA: a brave and dedicated task force

Rescue South Africa (Rescue SA) has played an important role in various international disasters, representing South Africa with pride and distinction. It is the official South African Disaster Response Team made up of volunteer emergency response specialists from the South African public and private sector services. To celebrate the bravery and dedication of the Rescue SA team, the South African Post Office will issue a miniature sheet containing two stamps on 22 February.

Rescue SA was established as an NGO in 2000 with the goal to develop urban search and rescue capacity within South Africa and the SADEC region. The release of this special miniature sheet is not only a celebration, but also a gesture of gratitude for the bravery of the Rescue SA team whose members often risk danger and discomfort, such as extreme heat or cold and even treacherous danger such as the threat of nuclear radiation, as in Japan recently, to save the lives of their fellow men.

Rescue South Africa consists of multi-disciplinary task forces including specialist rescuers, trauma doctors, paramedics, K9 search dog units, civil engineers, as well as chemical and safety specialists. The organisation represents a broad cross section of the disaster and emergency services fraternity throughout all provinces including governmental, non-governmental and private organisations.

Rescue SA has responded to numerous sudden-onset disasters including earthquakes, floods, volcanic eruptions and airplane crashes, as well as structural and trench collapses. The team has also provided logistical and management support during local incidents such as the xenophobic attacks by locals on foreigner camps during 2008.

Rescue SA has also served with distinction on the sites of international disasters such as the earthquake and tsunami in eastern Japan last year. The Prime Minister of Japan personally thanked the team in a letter mentioning that the Rescue SA team flew swiftly to Japan being the first ever rescue and relief operation by an African nation in Japan. “Their courageous and effective work under severe conditions represented the clear testimony of friendship and solidarity that the government and the people of South Africa have shown us,” he wrote.

Rescue SA has responded to numerous other natural disasters worldwide, including earthquakes in Turkey, India, Iran, Pakistan, Algeria and Japan, as well as floods in Mozambique and the Free State and a volcanic eruption in Goma, DRC

Rescue SA strives for several main objectives such as being completely neutral and representative of all South Africans. The organisation also represents a broad cross section of the disaster and emergency services fraternity throughout all provinces including governmental, non-governmental and private entities.

The organisation has also formalised a comprehensive disaster response plan relating to equipment, personnel, operational procedures and logistics. It also creates rapid deployment teams, which are equipped to respond to a range of complex emergency and relief situations, including ongoing rescue operations and mass casualties.

Rescue SA also provides nationwide primary support to South African local emergency management departments, as well as extending aid to SADC and other African countries in need.

United Nations
Rescue South Africa forms part of the United Nations International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG) operated under the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid (OCHA) and hosted the INSARAG World Team Leaders’ Meeting in South Africa in 2002.

Rescue SA regularly responds to international requests for aid and liaises with UN INSARAG, USAID and other international rescue bodies with the aim of rendering the best possible technical rescue service and emergency medical care.