Logotipo del Ministerio de Defensa escudo UME



During the 1980s, several disasters that took place around the world (Izmit, Spitack) affected urban areas where people live and work in multi-story buildings. Natural catastrophes such as earthquakes, hurricanes, big floods or landslides can tear apart buildings within seconds in densely populated cities.

Following such an event, a big part of the victims is immediately rescued by the local community. These victims are in their majority people that are slightly trapped and hardly injured, for which just a few tools are required.

Nonetheless, in order to search people that are trapped in reinforced structures, highly specialised tools and skills are required to locate, access and rescue the victim. The chances of survival of these people are rapidly reduced over time; the first 36 hours are crucial and it is essential that the resources are allocated in the correct places as soon as posible.              


In 1991, the United Nations created the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG), with the aim of improving urban search and rescue standards, as well as coordinating the international reaction to instant and large-scale disasters. Some of the INSARAG goals consist in creating a global network of organizations that respond to disasters and writing guidelines to form international Urban Search and Rescue teams (USAR) that assist rapidly and efficiently to a country devastated by a disaster. 

In order to achieve a higher level of success in rescue operations, the United Nations needs to rely on specialised teams with these skills and, that regardless of their origin, have a common knowledge that enables them to be integrated into the same control and leadership structure.

INSARAG are a series of guidelines developed by the international Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) advisory team, an UN organism created in the 1991 as a result of the Spitak earthquake occurred in 1988 in Armenia, that left 25 000 casualties. This group was originated following the resolution UN 57/150 of 16 December 2002, after the Izmit earthquake in 1999, where more than 18 000 people died. Turkey, is in fact, one of the main promoters of the team.

These guidelines are intended to provide a more rapid, efficient and effective response to the countries hit by a disaster (normally an earthquake) by the international USAR teams. 

Its procedure also establishes a team directed by the UN, that sets up the necessary facilities to ease the work of USAR teams. This team is called the UNDAC (United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination), which runs the RDC (Reception and Departure Centre) and the OSOCC (On-Site Operations Coordination Centre).

In theory, and according to the INSARG, it is the host country (which was hit by the disaster and is seeking international help) that must guarantee the safety of the staff involved, and provide, among other things, vehicles, fuel and wood for bracing.

From 2005, INSARAG proceeds to examinate those teams that want to be part of the system (5 teams per year). It is being envisaged the possibility of making joint certifications teams from different countries, as, for instance, the one that took place between Denmark and Belgium in 2015. During the examination, they need to demonstrate their capacity of accomplishing all the requirements stablished in the INSARAG guidelines, which is to receive and integrate a foreign team, and very importantly, show teamwork spirit.


INSARAG External Certification process (IEC)

When an organization wants to be subjected to an IEC (INSARAG External Classification), it must send a letter to the INSARAG Secretariat and rely on the Urban and Rescue Teams (USAR). Once it’s done, an INSARAG expert makes an inspection appointment in order to verify the conditions of the organization, and in a favorable case, a date for the IEC is assigned. It is estimated that at least two years are required to complete this process, for which a dossier (POE) with all the necessary documentation must be prepared. 

Once the certification date is assigned, a mentor will be in charge of following all the IC preparation process. This mentor belongs to an organization already certified and their duty is to assure that the steps that are taken are appropriate and postpone the certification date, in advance, when the team doesn’t progress at the adequate rhythm. The UME team mentor is the English team UK ISAR, USAR that counts with previous experience.

The IEC/IER certification of a team lasts 5 years and consists in a revision of its documents and facilities. Afterwards, the staff is mobilized, the required equipment taken, and a 36-hour exercise routine is carried out. The personnel involved are then relieved, simulating activity in an operational zone, continuously and successively, in the different assigned scenarios, until completing the actions that are needed during the IEC/IER and are reflected in the INSARAG guidelines.

The exercise is set by the unit which is being certified and with the reinforcements that may be available. To sum up, in an IEC/IER evaluation take part: INSARAG Secretariat, USAR team evaluated, ECON (exercise control), mentor/s of the evaluated team, classifiers/examiners and observers.

During the certification the following actuations must be performed: airport transfer, passport control, charge control, take-off and landing, contact with the Local Emergency Management Arrangements (LEMA), border crossing and visas, RDC establishment, transport to the affected area, construction of the OSOCC and the Operations Base, interception of the assigned area, the necessary search and rescue commands to solve problems, and incorporation of another foreign USAR team to the mission.


Emergency Military Unit USAR team

In December 2011, the Emergency Military Unit USAR team became part of an Urban Search and Rescue team accordance to INSARAG standards after passing its certification process. In May 2016, the team passed the reclassification (compulsory every five years), keeping therefore the INSARAG certification as a USAR team until 2021.

The team is conformed of more than 40 specialists in search, rescue, logistic, healthcare, control and coordination, and it can be deployed anywhere in the world within hours. Once deployed, it can execute search and rescue operations each 24 hours during seven days.

The search capacity of the team is a combination of employment on one side and search trained dogs on the other side, as well as specific electronic devices, such as rescue camaras, geophones, UWB sensors and drones.

Search specialists in collapsed structures have the formation and the required equipment to make bracing, cut and perforation, vertical rescue, rescue in confined spaces, movement and lift of big weights.

The USAR team has a healthcare infrastructure, composed of doctors, nurses and technicians prepared for the stability and the extraction of the victims that are trapped under the debris, and assistance to USAR team members who are affected during the operations.

To manage their own operations and coordinate both the local and international authorities, the UME USAR team counts with specialists in control that have the most advanced informatic, technical, transmission and communication devices.

Logistics are indispensable for an international USAR team, that’s why the team is self-sufficient on the ground during seven days and is able to deploy camp and accommodation facilities anywhere in the world.

Since the beginning of the UME, its USAR team has been deployed in:







Not to mention that at a national level they have also intervened in the Lorca earthquake (Murcia, 2011) and in Los Cristianos collapse (Tenerife, 2016).

Documentation about the current and future situation of the UME SP USAR (click to download the file 1.1. Mbytes).

USAR equipment list classified chronologically, its type and the organization of their origin.