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Humanitarian Overseas Medal presented to MFB search and rescue crews

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29 Jun 2015
Members of an MFB taskforce have been presented the Humanitarian Overseas Service Medal for their deployment to the Christchurch earthquake in 2011.

A 6.3 magnitude earthquake hit Christchurch New Zealand on Tuesday 22 February 2011 killing 185 people and injuring thousands. It also caused multiple buildings to collapse with many more severely damaged.

The epicentre of the quake was concentrated in the CBD of Christchurch.

Australia initially deployed two Heavy Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) teams from NSW and Queensland. A third team was requested to star the recovery phase.

As part of Task Force 3 MFB deployed five USAR technicians and a structural engineer.

  • Commander George Arnold (Operation Officer)
  • Station Officer Anita Carlin (Team Leader)
  • Leading Firefighter Matt Burr (Rescue crew member)
  • Leading Firefighter Wayne Hammond (Rescue crew member)
  • Senior Station Officer Greg Plier (Logistics and rescue crew member)

Tasks included:

  • Identifying laneways and collapses structures that may have been overlooked
  • De-layering and deconstruction of collapse fascia and awning
  • Identify, stabilise, and remove overhead risks
  • Reduce and minimise  stock losses during deconstructions (including personal effects)
  • Deconstruction of fascia shoring required to stabilise remainder of structure

Teams also moved to the outer suburbs to map access to all residential property and report back any major structural concerns and assist community.

During their deployment Task Force 3 completed 300 separate tasks and surveyed 14 suburbs. All team added value to many communities by assisting to whatever could be achieved with the limited resources available.

The medal was established in 1999 by the Australian Government and recognises Australian groups which render humanitarian service overseas in hazardous circumstances such as war zones, during peacekeeping operations or in times of natural disaster or civil strife.

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