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PIA Press Release
Saturday, January 21, 2012


Feature: Butuan Search and Rescue Team: Saving lives as a way of life

by Christopher E. Simogan and Desiree Tandayag

It was a fine day on October 15, 2011 when 37 individuals gathered at Luna Compound, Barangay Bading, Butuan City to undergo the 10-day Modified Medical & Technical Rescue Operation Course offered by the City Government of Butuan. The training was conducted by the countryís premiere rescue doctor, Dr. Ted Esguerra, and his team of Emergency Medical Service volunteers.

Most of the participants came from the different Local Government Offices who were recommended by their respective Department Heads. The trainees bravely faced the challenge of going through the rigid training of the next generationís rescue unit, unmindful of the impending hardships they would have to endure in the course of the training.

For the next 10 days, the trainees learned Water Search and Rescue, Mountain Search and Rescue, Rope Technique, Basic Trauma Life Support, Basic Life Support, Water Survival and Boat Handling. Their daily routine included morning walks, breath-holding exercises and calisthenics. Perhaps their greatest hurdle was when they had to individually rappel down the Magsaysay Bridge towards the mighty Agusan River and swim approximately 1.5 kilometers back to the base camp in Bgy. Bading.

All 37 trainees completed the course and became the pioneer members of the new Butuan Search and Rescue Team (BUSART).

However, BUSARTís commitment is not only limited to search and rescue, the rescuers also participated in charitable works such as the Gasa Hong Pasko, a yearly gift-giving activity of the City Government to reach out to less fortunate constituents of the 86 barangays during the Christmas season. The team also joined Mayor Amante in distributing relief goods to the victims of Tropical Storm Sendong in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan.

This year, BUSART is planning to train barangay rescue volunteers to empower barangay folks and make them capable of quickly responding to emergencies in their community, like how they did in Cayagayn de Oro city.

When Tropical Storm Sendong devastated Cagayan de Oro and Iligan City, leaving thousands of displaced families and casualties in its path, a 14-man team from the newly-formed BUSART was immediately deployed by Butuan City Mayor Ferdinand M. Amante, Jr. to help in the retrieval operations in Cagayan de Oro City.

For 5 days, the team worked with the CDO Central Fire Department and engaged in water and land retrieval operations in Barangay Balulang, Isla de Oro, Macasandig, and other hard-hit areas. BUSART members endured the scorching heat of the sun in what seemed to be an endless search for victims, hoping to find survivors underneath every pile of collapsed structures. The operation exposed the team to the actual rigors of search and retrieval works. They also had to act as big brothers and sisters to the many surviving children they met along the way.

The experience instilled in the young rescuers that their job is not easy. One must always be ready for humans are helpless against natureís wrath. This sad and eye-opening experience changed the lives of every member and gave them strengthened faith that Butuan City was spared from such tragedy.

Since its creation in October 2011, BUSART has responded to numerous emergency cases in Butuan City including water search and rescue and vehicular accidents. The team is also actively involved in Butuan Cityís Disaster Risk Reduction and Management efforts. Team members are assigned in shifts to monitor the water level at the Agusan River Base 24 hours a day.

Life is indeed precious and every BUSART member values every personís life as their own. Rescue has become their way of life. The next calamity may happen tonight or tomorrow, but Butuan residents can sleep a little more soundly knowing that there is a group of young and energetic individuals who stand ready to respond when disaster strikes.

BUSART may not be the best rescue team in the country but the team is committed to save as many lives as they can. In due time, they will pass on all that they have learned to the next generation of rescuers but until then, they shall continue to do their job, offering their lives so that others may live. (CMO-PIO/MRP/BUSART/PIA-Caraga)

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