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In July the IMRF’s CEO, Bruce Reid, and one of our mass rescue operations project team, John Geel of the Royal Netherlands Sea Rescue Institution (KNRM), attended the 5th International Search and Rescue (ISAR) Conference & Exhibition in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, hosted by Major Murali Bhaskaran RMAF (Rtd) of Global SAR.

The third day of the conference was set aside for an IMRF Mass Rescue Operations (MRO) Workshop, facilitated by John. About 60 delegates participated, from a wide range of organisations.

MalaysiagroupThe main objective of the workshop was to create awareness of the need to be prepared for a mass rescue operation, which, by definition, is beyond normal SAR capability.

By sharing knowledge and experience already gained around the world – in keeping with the IMRF’s fundamental ethos – local responses to these extremely challenging events can be improved. The need for an MRO is rare; but the need can arise anywhere, at any time, and without warning. It’s not ‘if’ but ‘when’...

The workshop included a simple tabletop exercise, based on a passenger vessel fire scenario. The exercise proceeded in stages, during which the attendees discussed various key questions to do with alerting, command, control & coordination, communication, rescue methods, and cooperation with shore responders, shipping companies and the news media, etc.

As well as enabling focus on the issues, the participants were able to contribute valuable information from their own experience. Sharing knowledge is a two-way street!

The workshop concluded that, in the end, conducting a successful rescue in a large passenger vessel incident (or any mass rescue operation) will always involve improvisation, but that the success and effectiveness of this improvisation will be determined by thorough generic planning beforehand.

Interested in organising or taking part in an IMRF mass rescue operations workshop? Please contact us at And for more information about the IMRF’s MRO project, visit

Remember: it’s not ‘if’, but ‘when’...

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