Syrian Civil Defence (SCD) started with very limited means using mattocks, shovels and other simple tools. SCD members, with help from local residents, had only their hands to lift collapsed roofs and rubble. Although, this help was of the best intentions it was clear training and equipment was required to carry out these tasks successfully and safely.
The first training course started in early 2013. It was an Urban Search and Rescue Level 1 (USAR Light) course provided through Mayday Rescue with instruction being carried out by Search & Rescue Institute. The training mainly consisted of simple search and rescue methods like searching under rubble using sound, signs, and gestures. It also included training on how to support fragile roofs, cutting rebar, and using drills and motor powered manual diggers to help determine the presence of survivors or casualties. The course also provided training on carrying people on medical stretchers as well as training on firefighting using powder and foam fire extinguishers and when to use which.
USAR Level 2 (Medium) shortly followed. This provided more advanced training like using cameras to spot casualties and determining the best way to rescue them. It also provided training on using heavy tools, which save a lot of time. The course also included training on lifting roofs using airbags, which proved very helpful, and using ropes to pull/lift heavy objects or people from deep places. Moreover, the course provided more specialised medical training for first responders.
After providing Level 1 courses for some time, we started assigning trainers from the SCD to train members inside Syria. This enabled us to provide training to members who are not able to join courses outside Syria. Late in 2015, we started training members of the SCD to provide Level 2 training to other members. Three training centres were set up and this has enhanced our capacity considerably. Currently, we are providing a basic level of UXO (Unexploded Ordnance) Clearance training. The training includes learning how to identify dangerous munitions and dispose of them safely, thus enabling SCD to remove dangerous threats to local communities.