Analysis of urban search and rescue markings applied following the 22 February 2011 Christchurch earthquake

Stephen Glassey MEmergMgt, NCUSAR, CEM®, MEPS

Institute of Risk, Resilience & Renewal, University of Canterbury



In one of New Zealand’s worst disasters, international rescue teams from around the world responded to the Christchurch earthquake. To ensure interoperability and effectiveness of such global rescue responses, an international body under the auspices of the United Nations has established guidelines for these rescue teams, including a standardised search marking system for damaged and collapsed structures. The aim of this research was to evaluate whether responding teams adhered to the guideline when applying such markings. From hundreds of photographs, 153 images were visually analysed using a novel qualitative evaluation tool known as the Search Marking Adherence Score (SMAS). An online survey of responders (n=68) gathered further qualitative and further quantitative data. It was found that search markings were generally well applied but some team types performed better than others. New Zealand Response Teams scored the highest, followed by International teams, then New Zealand Task Forces. The analysis also leads to several practical recommendations to enhance the search marking specifications within the international guideline.

KEY WORDS: Christchurch, earthquake, urban search and rescue, INSARAG, SMAS, markings, New Zealand.

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