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International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG)

The International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG) is a network of disaster-prone and disaster-responding countries and organizations dedicated to urban search and rescue (USAR) and operational field coordination. 

INSARAG was established in 1991 to facilitate coordination between the international USAR teams that make themselves available for deployment to countries experiencing devastating events of structural collapse due primarily to earthquakes. Ever since, INSARAG has never stood still but constantly adapted its globally recognized and accepted quality standards and methodology to save more lives.

The United Nations was chosen as the INSARAG secretariat to facilitate international participation and coordination. The Emergency Response Section (ERS), located within OCHA Geneva’s Response Support Branch (RSB), functions as the INSARAG secretariat.

INSARAG External Classifications 

The INSARAG community acknowledges the importance of providing rapid, professional USAR support during disasters that result in structural collapse. To achieve this objective, INSARAG has developed a voluntary, independent peer review process of international USAR teams – the INSARAG External Classification (IEC). 

The INSARAG Steering Group endorsed the IEC in 2005. The IEC has received unanimous support from INSARAG members. According to their operational capabilities, USAR teams deploying internationally are classified as “Medium Teams” or “Heavy Teams” through the IEC process. This ensures that qualified and appropriate USAR resources are deployed accordingly. 

International USAR teams can apply for classification through the INSARAG secretariat.


INSARAG has become a model for humanitarian assistance, with more than 90 Member States and organizations. As of today, more than 56 international teams have successfully achieved the globally recognized INSARAG IEC status. UN General Assembly resolution 57/150 on Strengthening the Effectiveness and Coordination of International USAR Assistance (2002) has underpinned much of the progress achieved throughout the past three decades in the areas of effective preparation, coordination and response.

The INSARAG mandate includes:

  • Field coordination support.
  • Render emergency preparedness and response activities more effective and thereby save more lives, reduce suffering and minimize adverse consequences.
  • Improve efficiency in cooperation among international USAR teams working in collapsed structures at a disaster site.
  • Promote activities designed to improve search-and-rescue preparedness in disaster-prone countries, thereby prioritizing developing countries.
  • Develop internationally accepted procedures and systems for sustained cooperation between national USAR teams operating on the international scene.
  • Develop USAR procedures, guidelines and best practices, and strengthen cooperation between interested organizations during the emergency relief phase.
What is INSARAG? [English - French - Spanish]
INSARAG Guidelines
INSARAG External Classification/Reclassification Guidelines
INSARAG website