The Emergency Response Volunteer Group under the Beijing Volunteer Association recently held a drill for the first time. A total of 58 volunteers travelled more than 1,000 kilometers in their cars, practicing emergency communications, moving fast on mountain roads, using unmanned aerial vehicles to conduct reconnaissance and conducting search and rescue operations in mountainous regions. According to Zhao Peifeng, leader of the group, two people with their own private aircraft will join the group, allowing Beijing’s emergency response volunteers to launch air rescue operations in the future.
Received an order to assemble at 2:00 am
"An earthquake has taken place in a region close to Beijing and all of Beijing’s emergency response volunteers should head for the earthquake-struck area in 3 hours.” At 2:00 am, Beijing’s volunteers received an assembly order via radio. When they received the order, volunteers began to prepare equipment and food and then hurry to the designated assembly point.
At 5:00 am, 58 volunteers got to the assembly point in 18 vehicles. “We have drafted two alternative plans for this drill. One plan involves assembly, marching and communications and it was specially designed to test the emergency response abilities of our group while the other plan involves emergency communications, mountain rescue, and first aid and was designed to evaluate cooperation among group members,” said Zhao Peifeng.
The headquarters divided all the participants into medical, logistics, communications and rescue teams as well as a special service team consisting of 20 volunteers. The special service team played an important role during the drill as all the members have comprehensive skills.
New members practising overtooking other vehicles on a mountain road
The volunteers in 8 of the 18 vehicles are newcomers who work as kindergarten teachers, computer engineers, doctors and police officers. In addition, some of them are retirees. Gou Manli, a kindergarten teacher, is one of these newcomers. Driving in the number 3 vehicle, Gou moved at the head of the convoy, reporting on the road conditions to the others.
"Overtaking other vehicles on a mountain road is a very difficult and dangerous practice but it is a useful skill in rescue operations. It requires the driver of the first vehicle to have a calm mind and good communication skills. At the same time, it also requires complete trust among the volunteers," said Gou. Gou clearly reported the road conditions all the way, enabling other volunteers to know where there would be things such as falling stones or other vehicles.
Unmanned plane used in rescuing a “lost old man”
Arriving at Weichang County, the first rehearsal task for the volunteers was to quickly pitch their tents. The sun went down and it was drizzling and the temperature fell to about 10 degrees Celsius. A team member then received a message that an old man had gotten lost in the mountains and needed help.
The volunteers immediately set up the emergency communication system and then the rescue team and medical team brought handheld radios with them and headed to the spot where the old man was last known to have been. Meanwhile, an unmanned helicopter lifted off, hovering over the area where the old man might be and continuously sent back aerial pictures to the command center.
"We found him," said a volunteer with joy sitting in front of a monitor in the command center and then he reported the old man’s exact position to the front line volunteers. About ten minutes later, the volunteers found the old man and carried him to the campsite after administering basic medical care.
During the rehearsal, the comprehensive emergency volunteer team established a long-term cooperative relationship with Weichang County government, and set up the Beijing volunteers’ emergency rescue training base. “In the rehearsal, we successfully trained the team and found things we needed to improve on,” said Zhao Peifeng. “If the person has been lost for several days, he must be mentally vulnerable. So we will install a speaker on the unmanned plane to talk to the person who is lost and give him encouragement in order to increase his confidence.”
Private planes will join the emergency volunteer team
Reporters learned that future rehearsals with the emergency volunteer team will be ever more complex and a water and air rescue team will be added. An entrepreneur from Hangzhou will make his private plane available to the Beijing volunteers for the rehearsal and rescues. Another official from a private plane management company in Hunan said they will also provide their private planes when necessary and train pilots for the Beijing emergency volunteer team. “Apart from providing planes, they will also allocate pilots and contact airlines for the rescue,” said Zhao. “Some of our team members will also be able to join in the pilot training. The Beijing emergency volunteer team will become a multi-functional team with water, land and air capabilities.”