Search and Rescue Association (Arama Kurtarma Derneği-AKUT) received a grant from our Izmir Earthquake Emergency Relief Fund in 2020 to purchase key equipment for search and rescue operations, and to provide aid packages to families who had lost their homes in Izmir and Kusadasi.
Read below our interview:
You completed the Increasing Izmir Society’s Resilience to Disasters project. Can you tell us about the project’s activities and outcomes?
With the help of the Izmir Earthquake Emergency Relief Fund, we reached out to 254 families who were affected by the earthquake and provided food and hygiene packages. In some houses, we saw that multiple families were living together. Those who were entitled to a temporary accommodation brought other family members who were affected by the earthquake to live with them. As a result, we reached more people than we initially planned.
Some of the companies which we have collaborated with also offered in-kind donations, allowing us to distribute more humanitarian goods to the people. In this context, we distributed items such as clothing, towels, detergents, and books. Exam preparation books, provided by a reputable institution, made a significant contribution to the future of students who were affected by the earthquake.
We also carried out disaster and pandemic awareness-raising activities. We were able to replace our Kusadasi Team’s cutting and separating tools, which had become inoperable after the intervention in Izmir. This was crucial for us to be prepared for a potential earthquake.
With the help of the Izmir Earthquake Emergency Relief Fund, we reached out to 254 families who were affected by the earthquake and provided food and hygiene packages.
Pre-disaster preparations and post-disaster first response are the core responsibilities of AKUT. As part of this project, you were engaged in humanitarian relief for the first time. Can you tell us about your experiences?
When we learned that our project would be supported within the scope of this Fund, we shared this information with some institutions that AKUT had given training before. A company, which provides children’s and women’s apparel, made an especially big in-kind donation. This way, we were able to distribute summer and winter clothing to the people.
Usually, while implementing projects supported by grants, the project goals are achieved first and their effects are shared with the public later on. But in this case, even before we had started the project, we reached out to the companies and donors that could potentially provide in-kind support and looked for ways to support as many people as we could reach. And we were very successful in this as well.
Those affected by the earthquake in Izmir also faced difficulties due to the pandemic. We also know that financial and in-kind contributions gradually diminish over time. Can you tell us about the circumstances and the needs of the people?
When we arrived to distribute our last packages, the earthquake survivors told us that everyone had forgotten about them and that the support given was practically running short. As a result, we concluded our preparations to apply for grants and approached several donors.
The need for hygiene items in the region was critical due to the pandemic, and there is always a need for food and clothing. Many children need toys, colouring books, and other goods. Some earthquake survivors lost their jobs due to the pandemic, and their incomes decreased, putting them in a far more difficult condition.
It is critical to plan ahead of time in case of a disaster. One of the most crucial steps is to create public awareness and ensure that civil society organisations are prepared.
You were invited to the Turkish Grand National Assembly Earthquake Investigation Commission, which was formed in the aftermath of the Izmir Earthquake, wherein you presented numerous proposals on disaster preparedness. What actions must be taken to prepare Turkey for future disasters?
It is critical to plan ahead of time in case of a disaster. One of the most crucial steps is to create public awareness and ensure that civil society organisations (CSOs) are prepared. Periodical awareness-raising activities should be expedited, particularly in high-risk areas. Educational materials should be updated.
Non-accredited individuals and institutions should not conduct such activities; instead, we should adopt a shared language and common practices. In addition, after identifying vulnerable individuals with special needs, local representatives, local governments, and public administrations should make special evacuation plans for emergencies and disasters.
Community centres should be established, and protective, preventive, and supportive activities should be organised. At the same time, traumatised individuals should be reintegrated into society after disasters through education and social activities in these centres. With the help of public institutions and CSOs, necessary precautions should be taken to ensure that the search and rescue personnel required in the operating area, as well as their backups, arrive in the region after the disaster.
Throughout the year, we continue our operations which include not only major disasters but also missing person cases, which have increased dramatically in recent years.
What will be AKUT’s priorities and projects in the future?
We have worked on a variety of national and international missions, including disaster planning and response, as well as search and rescue. We will continue to do so in the future. Throughout the year, we continue our operations which include not only major disasters but also missing person cases, which have increased dramatically in recent years. Missing person cases are also on the rise due to Turkey’s geographical location and the rise in disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s that come with increased life expectancy.
With the growth of our team, we will focus on promoting our name more and more internationally in the future. One of our most significant achievements was AKUT’s inclusion in the EU Civil Protection Mechanism in 2020. To improve efficiency in the field of search and rescue, we contribute to international projects as a partner. Our impact and the number of living beings we potentially reach grow every day since our volunteers and members come from various professional backgrounds and work hard to contribute to this area.
AKUT conducts voluntary search and rescue work following natural disasters and accidents such as earthquakes, floods, or major hazards. AKUT provides basic first aid to the victims, ensures their safety, minimises loss of life in such incidents, and informs the public about search and rescue issues. As Turkey’s first search and rescue association, AKUT also assists the relevant public authorities during natural disasters in case of need.