ZAKA Search and Rescue, Inc., one of the world’s premiere international mass-disaster response agencies, has announced plans to expand operations in strategic cities in North and South America, as well as in the Caribbean.

“ZAKA’s primary mission is to save lives. Its effectiveness can be enhanced only through establishing autonomous ‘operations hubs’ in strategic locations in the United States, Brazil, Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean and elsewhere,” says Edward Mermelstein, president of ZAKA in the United States. “Upgrading in this way will vastly improve its ability to respond as fast as possible when tragedy strikes.”

“The faster it deploys its highly trained volunteer specialists—outfitted with state-of-the-art equipment and other mission-critical resources—the more lives can be saved,” he adds. “We see ZAKA as a long overdue but now proven solution to a substantive public-health problem, especially for developing nations in the throes of a natural or human-made disaster.”

Only recently, the agency was recognized with the Ambassador of Peace Award by the government of Guatemala for its humanitarian service to that country in a time of dire need, proving its utility in rapid-deployment disaster response.

Achieving its ambitious goals will require raising sufficient funds through private and institutional donations, building a logistical network for rapid deployment of personnel and equipment, and recruiting a corps of volunteers willing to undergo rigorous training and to put themselves in harm’s way at a moment’s notice.

Most volunteers are Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs); first responders, such as police and firemen; ex-military; and individuals with specialized skills, like doctors and nurses. Excellent physical fitness is essential for all candidates.

ZAKA trains and coordinates, with the U.S. National Guard, FEMA and oft-times deploys with the Israeli Defense Forces on humanitarian missions in response to disasters across the globe.

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