Back on the rubble

This weekend we completed another Urban Search & Rescue (USAR) Awareness course for our volunteer animal disaster responders. Disasters like earthquakes are not on holiday just because COVID is here and we need to get ready for the when, not if another disaster strikes.

Hosted by Kapiti Coast District Council, over 40 volunteers from Animal Evac NZ, NZ Red Cross and NZ Response Teams attended the multi-agency course.

The course also had special guest presentations from Dr Ian Dacre (FAO) [photo below] on international animal disaster response, and Mr Blair Hillyard, the former SPCA National Rescue Unit Leader who led the NRU into the red zone during the 2011 Canterbury earthquake.

The USAR Awareness Course was taught by ITRA Instructors Steve Glassey and Blair Hillyard, both AENZ volunteers with decades of animal emergency response experience. The course brings up AENZ’s national capacity of over 40 USAR Awareness operators, with over a dozen of USAR Responders and even a few USAR Technicians!

Feedback included:

I really enjoyed the course and the course content. It was great having other agencies there, great for learning what they do, how they work and potentially where we as Animal Evac can fit in or how we can help. The speakers were fantastic giving us a great insight of their experiences.The atmosphere and people was a really positive learning environment.

Camaraderie between agencies and trainers 🙂 Infectious atmosphere.

The chance to learn from gurus in an organised and engaging manner. Also I think having a variety of agencies attending was invaluable in terms of sharing knowledge and experience. Definitely looking forward to any future collabs.

The practical component on the rubble pile was great experience and very well organised.

Opportunity to meet other teams and to hear practical examples – both domestic and international.


  • 100% Thought it was a great course and satisfied with course content
  • 94% said the course was useful for their role
  • Top sessions: Guest Speakers, Rubble pile practicals, improvised structural monitoring, USAR markings and signals

We will be running another USAR Awareness Course soon, and also facilitating a General Rescue Course as optional development for our volunteers too.