Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) is a pre-planned, self-sufficient, multi agency response to structural collapse situations. This can be a response to either a natural or man-made disaster or emergency. Structure collapse situations can occur during an earthquake. For more information on how to prepare for an earthquake visit the earthquake information page.  

Historically, South Australian State Emergency Service (SASES) involvement in USAR extends back to the Second World War, albeit under a different name. Volunteers made their way through bombed and burnt buildings with minimal equipment to rescue the trapped and injured, these working parties were the forefathers of modern USAR. Today's USAR training involves highly trained personnel and specialised equipment.

USAR training is sectioned into three categories. SASES has several hundred members trained to USAR Category 1 and provides USAR Category 2 members to the State taskforce for large scale state or national responses. A USAR taskforce is usually requested when the incident is beyond the scope of the local resources to cope.

USAR Category 1

USAR Category 1 is an awareness level for initial responders who generally work removing primary surface casualties, conducting initial intelligence gathering, identifying hazards and establishing marking systems.

USAR Category 2

USAR Category 2 involves very extensive training in the technical and specialised aspects of rescue. All of these skills combine to allow the rescuer to access survivable spaces located within the rubble to remove trapped and injured victims from partially or totally collapsed structures. 

USAR Category 3

USAR Category 3 members focus on overall taskforce command and management. 

National training at this level currently involves a full time three week course. Some of the skills covered include:

  • USAR operations
  • Critical Incident Stress Debriefing
  • Manual Handling
  • Safety & Personal Care
  • Personal Protective Equipment and Personal Identification
  • Search equipment & listening devices
  • Chainsaws, hand tools & small tools
  • Concrete breeching and cutting 
  • Heavy lifting
  • Team Factors
  • Engineering
  • Vertical Rescue
  • Cribbing, shoring and tunnelling
  • Trench Rescue
  • Confined Space techniques
  • Rescue Operations
  • Patient Handling and Packaging
  • Media Awareness
  • Hazardous Materials
  • Disaster Victim Identification
  • Canine Search and Rescue
  • Field skills

To register your interest in becoming an SASES urban search and rescue volunteer complete our volunteer registration form and or call 1300 364 587.

Urban Search & Rescue