Volunteers Still Waiting for Green Light to Help Japan

View Comments (
)
|
Email
|
Print

    NEWSLETTERS

    The threat of radiation sickness is keeping at least one group of search and rescue experts from volunteering their services in Japan.

    Brad Barker of the San Diego-based "HALO" corporation said he has 15 disaster recovery experts, ten canine handlers, and ten specially trained dogs ready to help in earthquake stricken Japan.

    Barker has staging areas set up in Hawaii and Okinawa, where the volunteers can await the "OK" from the Japanese government to assist with that country's recovery effort. But he says his efforts are now on hold, because there is just too much risk involved from the radioactive particles being discharged from Japan's crippled nuclear reactors.

    Japan's government is also so preoccupied with the disaster that there's no time for it to coordinate with foreign volunteers, like those who work with "HALO" and the non-profit "RSQ Foundation", also based in San Diego, said Barker.

    "We're looking for some permission so we're not breaking laws, and we're looking for the capability to go in there and not put our team at risk," said Barker, who has supervised earthquake aide efforts in Haiti and New Zealand and helped with hurricane relief in Louisiana.

    Barker said volunteer aide groups like his would actually cause more problems for the Japanese, by going to that island nation now and trying to join the search for survivors.

    "They had an earthquake, a tsunami, and now three reactor cores that may or may not have an imminent melt down," he said. "They're busy, and they don't need to be giving guys like us parking tickets for pulling our response vans up to an area."

    Barker also says neither he nor his fellow volunteers have training on how to work safely in an area that might be contaminated by radiation. Even the Japanese Red Cross Society is not allowing its relief workers to enter areas near the damaged nuclear reactors.

    "Their hands are full," Barker said of the Japanese government. "And if we throw our element in there, especially not having experience in a radiological environment... I don't know if I'd appreciate it if they did that here in the United States, so I'm not going to do that to them."

    Barker said the "HALO" professionals will be available to help in Japan whenever conditions allow them to enter the country.