Changes recommended by an independent inquiry into the performance of emergency services are being put into practice with joint training exercises.
The Government's Corrective Action Plan, which arose out of the Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission, has made such exercises a priority.
Urban Search and Rescue project manager Paul Burns says a number of changes in the relationship between USAR and Civil Defence are under way.
Mr Burns says the agency has initiated two training operations with the Air Force to speed up the movement of rescue equipment.
USAR has also changed the distribution of equipment across the country so local response teams can use it before USAR teams arrive.
A 24-hour joint exercise with all agencies will be held in Timaru at the end of April.