An urban search and rescue (USAR) exercise in Qatar next week has been termed "business as usual" by NZ Fire Services area manager Bernie Rush.

Mr Rush, who was at the hub of USAR in this country from the time it was created in the mid-1990s, is currently a member of the organisation's management team and has been involved in many such exercises.

He will join 11 USAR leaders from other parts of New Zealand heading to Doha, the capital of Qatar today.

They will join representatives of other nations in an exercise running from November 11-13.


"We'll be joining teams from Russia, Spain, South Africa and Singapore." Mr Rush said while the Kiwis had worked with Singaporean teams "quite a bit" they had not worked with the other countries before.

He said the invitation had come from the Qatari Government and it was funded by them.

"Another section of the USAR team has just flown out to Malaysia on the weekend for an exercise over there."

He said a key to the exercises was about building relationships with teams from other countries but who were all working in the same field of urban search and rescue.

"When everything happened in Christchurch for example, we were already on a first-name basis with the leaders of all those teams that came in from other countries to help us out.

"Arranging for those teams to come here meant making a phone call and talking to USAR leaders directly which made it much easier," he said.

Mr Rush said recently the NZ Government had said that Kiwi teams would be available for international responses so these exercises were very important for building the expertise within those teams.

"And it's a chance for us to go and help those countries that came and helped us deal with Christchurch."


The Kiwi USAR teams have been doing these international exercises for at least a decade. Last year Mr Rush was on courses that took him to Indonesia and Nepal and some of the USAR members had recently been in Geneva for an international meeting.

But he said the main point was that USAR work had a global application.

"In Christchurch it was amazing because you could not tell which USAR teams were from which country, whether they were Kiwi, Aussie or from the States because we all use identical gear."