Cyprus Civil Defence is the fourth in the world to earn - after a painstaking and persistent process that lasted four years - the INSARAG Light Usar Team certification for assistance to other states after an earthquake from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA).
In her statements to CNA, the Commander of Civil Defence, Maria Papa, said that this certification was obtained on the evening of Sunday, December 12, after a four-day exercise, which was "completely different from the other exercises that have been carried out until today".
This particular exercise, Papa explained, "was the culmination of a multi-year effort aimed at our inclusion in our training and preparation system, based on the international INSARAG standards, and securing the relevant certification."
"This puts Cyprus on the map of the few countries that can provide assistance to other states after an earthquake," she said.
We are, she continued, "the first Search and Rescue Team that has been certified in Cyprus, the fourth in the world for the level we were certified and the 60th in the whole world to achieve certification by INSARAG, i.e. the International Search and Rescue Advisory Guidelines''.
Replying to a question, Papa said that "INSARAGs are the only internationally recognised certification standards for earthquake Search and Rescue Teams. These standards are prepared by an International Committee under the UN, OCHA, and are standards that are also recognised by the European Union.
Only a few search and rescue teams around the world have managed to achieve this certification
She explained that "following these standards and certifying a rescue team to them is neither simple nor easy."
It is for this reason, she said, "that only a few search and rescue teams around the world have managed to achieve this certification", noting at the same time that "every team that wishes to be certified to the INSARAG standard must go through a multi-year preparation and prove specific abilities in the field.''
Regarding the final examination, Papa stated that "it is carried out by a Commission which consists of experts from different countries in many subjects." "In our case, we were examined by a Commission, consisting of eight experts from seven countries," she said.
She also clarified that the INSARAG standards "relate to search and rescue operations after an earthquake in a foreign country and are operations in conditions characterised by the highest degree of difficulty and risk."
The Commander of Civil Defence also noted that "the application of INSARAG standards in the training and preparation of the Civil Defence, only makes us better and this has a direct impact on the mentality of our members as well as operational data."
Asked whether the fact that all interns are volunteers proves to be an obstacle or if it reduces the capabilities of the Civil Defence, Papa expressed "pride for our volunteers but also for all our fellow citizens who are voluntarily involved in various public benefit actions.''