Coordinating assistance for people in need: Swiss and foreign search and rescue teams train in Switzerland

Press releases, 09.05.2017

Expertise, rapid response and good coordination save lives. Five teams from four countries are taking part in a training exercise designed to test their operational capabilities in a simulated emergency following a virtual earthquake. Swiss Humanitarian Aid, part of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), and the Swiss Armed Forces are hosting the three-day ACHILLES exercise, which is taking place between 8 and 10 May, mainly in the Swiss Armed Forces training village at Epeisses in the canton of Geneva. Alongside Swiss Rescue, teams from Germany, France and the UK are also taking part.

Seventy-six search and rescue professionals and eight search dogs are practising in the Swiss Armed Forces training village at Epeisses.
Seventy-six search and rescue professionals and eight search dogs are practising in the Swiss Armed Forces training village at Epeisses. ©

The exercise is the first time that Swiss Rescue has trained in its new configuration. For the past year or so, Switzerland's search and rescue service has comprised 76 trained professionals (previously 110) and eight search dogs (previously 12). For the two German teams, THW (Technisches Hilfswerk) and I.S.A.R. Germany, the aim is to secure reclassification by the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG), a process that has to be repeated every five years under the United Nations disaster management mechanism. The other teams practising for an emergency in the ruins of the Epeisses army training village are UIISC 1 France and the German-British rescue team @fire Germany/S.A.R.A.I.D., each participating with one management unit rather than as full teams. 

In the exercise scenario, an earthquake measuring 7.5 on the Richter scale has taken place in the Geneva area. On 8 May, around 24 hours after the 'government' requested international assistance, the first search and rescue teams from Switzerland, Germany and France arrived at the Payerne military airfield, from where they were transported on to Epeisses. The three-day exercise allows the participants to set about practising their deployment procedures, as well as locating and rescuing trapped victims and providing emergency medical assistance, in a race against time. The teams' operational bases and accommodation tents are located near the training village.

On 9 May, around 100 guests from Switzerland and abroad were in attendance, including politicians, representatives of the Swiss Armed Forces, Swiss Humanitarian Aid experts and defence attachés stationed in Switzerland. Twenty search and rescue experts travelled from 10 countries to supervise, assess and classify the teams taking part in the exercise. A further 19 experts from China, Japan, Taiwan, Mongolia, Chile and Luxembourg as well as the United Nations participated as observers.

Further information:

Twitter of the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit

Address for enquiries:

Information FDFA
Bundeshaus West
CH-3003 Bern
Tel.: +41 58 462 31 53
Fax: +41 58 464 90 47


Federal Department of Foreign Affairs