SEOUL, Republic of Korea -- Fire safety is a universal language. And the everyday heroes who train and prepare for fires and other emergencies are working together here in Yongsan, to ensure all citizens are safe.

On April 24, USAG Yongsan Fire & Emergency Services conducted a mutual-aid firefighting exercise with Seoul City Fire Department (Yongsan-gu) at Hannam Village military housing.

The purpose of the mutual-aid exercise was to practice joint high-rise firefighting and rescue operations with the Seoul City Fire Department. This time, the exercise scenario was a fire in "G" building quarters #1401 with two personnel unaccounted for. The Seoul City Fire Department's Yongsan-gu Fire District responded with high-rise firefighting, rescue and command teams and quickly integrated with USAG Yongsan's firefighting, rescue and Incident Command teams.

"The exercise was a great success and demonstrates how both fire departments work closely together to protect Hannam Village and USAG Yongsan residents in the event of a fire or major emergency," said Harold Persons, Deputy Fire Chief of USAG Yongsan Fire & Emergency Services. "We have been doing it for approximately 7 years and it is key to our joint efforts to protect property and save lives."

According to Persons, the annual coordinated training occurs every Spring, allowing rotating personnel to experience working with their international counterparts. The season also plays a role in the timing.

"The weather is starting to get nice, so it is a good training environment for all the firefighters," explained Alex Temporado, Fire Chief of USAG Yongsan Fire & Emergency Services.

"During this exercise, we really learned how to integrate with the Incident Command System, (our emergency management system) and they learned to sit back and wait for the tasks," Temporado said. "For example, for primary and secondary searching, I would task their teams and ask them to give me a rescue team to search each floor, where we need it."

He said USAG Yongsan has received positive feedback from the firefighting teams and the citizens they are trained to protect.

"Especially from the residents. They were very interested because they saw both of us (Americans and Koreans) working together," Temporado said. "The kids saw us doing first aid, and for some of the residents it was the first time for them to see us doing that."

"From an emergency responders perspective, we got great feedback about working and integrating with the tenant commands and other agencies here," Persons said. "The Seoul City Fire Department likes to be involved with us in their community also."

That cooperation was also evidenced a few days later, when USAG Yongsan Fire & Emergency Services participated in the 2013 "Safe Seoul Day," held at Yeouido Park. The annual event promotes safety awareness for Korean children. USAG Yongsan emergency responders attended the event, displaying one of their ladder trucks and other fire fighting gear. But the real crowd pleaser was Sparky, the department's Dalmation mascot.

Both Temporado and Persons agree that the department has a close relationship with Seoul City.
"I think people are always concerned when a fire breaks out. This training is another way to show that in case of a fire or other emergency, we can get crews on the scene very quickly," Temporado said.

He added that the USAG Yongsan Fire & Emergency Services communicates with the Itaewon Sub-Station, and they send a truck en-route immediately.

"Whatever assets we call for, they get them rolling," Temporado said. "The response time is less than 5 minutes."

To report an emergency from on post, dial 9-1-1. From off-post, call 0503-323-9111.