Sociocultural Factors in Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Teams of Central America and the Caribbean
Amaly Fong Lee*, and Adan Vega Saenz**
*Isthmus Bureau of Shipping (ClassIBS)
Panama City, Panama
**Panama Maritime Authority, Panama City, Panama
Central America and the Caribbean islands are among the regions most exposed to socio-natural threats due to numerous underlying risk factors, such as poverty, inadequate management of natural resources, drug trafficking, illegal immigration, and urban conglomeration, which particularly influence sociocultural factors. This region is also characterized by widespread cultural diversity, sizable indigenous regions, and various ethnic groups, as well as social and cultural characteristics that cannot be compared to each other. Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) teams intervene directly within the environment described above to perform rescue operations for people in situations that entail some damage to the surrounding infrastructure or environment. These teams comprise highly-trained specialists with technical knowledge. However, in some cases, these teams may face disadvantages due to their lack of knowledge regarding the sociocultural components, which would allow them to develop an understanding of human behavior in a broader sense. In the current paper, we provide a detailed examination of the sociocultural factors that significantly impact the success or failure of operations led by USAR teams in the Central American and Caribbean communities. To reduce the high losses caused by disasters in the region and inequity in the missions of these teams, we conclude that increased attention should be directed toward sociocultural components in the work of rescuers.
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